SAMUEL J. GRENZ, Petitioner,
FIRE & CASUALTY OF CONNECTICUT, Respondent/Insurer for AMERICAN STUD COMPANY, Employer.
Submitted: March 16, 2000
Pro se claimant having filed numerous (at least 13) petitions
in this Court, several cases in district court, and at least
eight appeals in the Supreme Court, filed another case
alleging insurer is liable to him relating to work injuries.
Insurer moved for summary judgment on ground res judicata.
Res judicata bars this petition where claimant makes the
identical contentions made in previous cases.
Samuel Grenz v. Fire & Casualty of Connecticut aff d
2001 MT 8. Defenses: Res Judicata. Pro
se claimant's estoppel arguments are rehashing of
previously litigated claims and subject to summary judgment
on ground of res judicata.
Defenses: Res Judicata. The doctrine of res
judicata bars a party from relitigating a matter he or she
has already had an opportunity to litigate. Once there has
been a full opportunity to present an issue for judicial
decision in a given proceeding, the determination of the
court in that proceeding must be accorded finality
as to all issues raised or which fairly could have been
raised, else judgments might be attacked piecemeal without
end. Res judicata has four elements: (1) the parties or their
privies are the same; (2) the subject matter of the claim is
the same; (3) the issues are the same and relate to the same
subject matter; (4) the capacities of the parties are the
same in reference to the subject matter and the issues.
The present petition is another in the seemingly unending
cases prosecuted by petitioner Grenz. The history of his
prior cases is summarized most recently in Grenz v. Fire
& Casualty of Connecticut, 1999 MTWCC 70 (November
9, 1999), as follows:
Grenz has been pursuing benefits since 1984, when he filed a
claim for an elbow injury. He later alleged that his elbow
injury and subsequent microtrauma caused degenerative
arthritis affecting numerous parts of his body. Those claims,
pursued under the Workers Compensation Act, were rejected.
Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 250 Mont.
373, 820 P.2d 742 (1991) (Grenz I); Grenz v.
Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 260 Mont. 60, 857 P.2d
730 (1993) (Grenz III).
Grenz also pursued an OD claim based on alleged microtrauma
occurring subsequent to his 1984 injury.
That claim was rejected as untimely. Grenz v. Fire and
Casualty of Connecticut, 278 Mont. 268, 924 P.2d 264
(1996) (Grenz IV).
Grenz then pursued his present case, alleging that he is
entitled to OD benefits under his original 1984 claim. The
Department dismissed the claim on res judicata
grounds. I reversed. Noting that Grenz's prior OD claim
had alleged an OD arising subsequent to his
1984 claim, I held that the dismissal of that claim did not
resolve his current claim for OD benefits under the 1984
claim. The Supreme Court affirmed in an unpublished decision.
1998 MT 35N (Grenz V).
(1999 MTWCC 70 at 1-2.) In each of the decisions, Grenz's
demands for benefits with respect to his degenerative
arthritis have been denied.
In his latest petition, Grenz alleges that the insurer is
liable for benefits because it initially paid benefits with
respect to his original August 27, 1984 claim for
compensation. He contends that the insurer occupied a
position of trust with respect to his claim and that,
apparently on account of the payments, it should be estopped
from denying liability.
The insurer moves for summary judgment based on statutes of
limitations, prior judgments in Grenz's cases, and an
oral settlement agreement reached in connection with
Grenz's appeal of my 1999 decision. The motion has
been briefed and is ready for decision.
Summary judgment may be granted only where "there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving
party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." ARM
24.5.329(2) and Rule 56(c) Mont.R.Civ.P. In this case, I need
only consider the pleadings in this case and prior court
decisions and judgments in reaching a decision. Those matters
are not subject to factual dispute.
In Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 250
Mont. 373, 820 P.2d 742 (1991) (Grenz I), Grenz
argued that the insurer's payment of benefits for over
five years constituted a waiver of its right to deny him
benefits for his degenerative arthritis and psychological
condition. The Montana Supreme Court rejected his argument:
The claimant also argues that because the insurer assumed
liability in this case and paid benefits to him for over five
years, the insurer waived its right to deny his claim for
benefits. We disagree. Section 39-71-608, MCA (1983),
"An insurer may, after written notice to the claimant
and the division, make payment of compensation benefits
within 30 days of receipt of a claim for compensation without
such payments being construed as an admission of liability or
a waiver of any right of defense."
It is clear that under the particular facts of this case, the
insurer accepted liability for the 1984 right elbow injury
and paid workers' compensation benefits to the claimant.
However, under § 39-71-608, MCA (1983), the insurer, by
making such payments, did not waive its right to subsequently
assert nonliability for the claimant's condition insofar
as it was not causally related to the elbow injury.
250 Mont. at 381, 820 P.2d at 747. While Grenz now couches
his argument in terms of estoppel, which is a doctrine
related to waiver, the substance of his argument is the same
in this case as Grenz I.
In Grenz v. Fire and Casualty of Connecticut, 260
Mont. 60, 857 P.2d 730 (1993) (Grenz IV), the
Supreme Court considered Grenz's claim that he suffered
from arthritis caused by a series of microtrauma. The Court
held that his claim was time-barred and rejected his argument
that the insurer and employer were estopped from raising the
limitations defense. As apropos to this case, the Court
Grenz next argues that F&C should be equitably estopped
from relying on the statute of limitations, citing Scott
v. Utility Line Contractors (1987), 226 Mont. 154, 734
P.2d 206, and Weigland v. Anderson-Meyer Drilling
Co. (1988), 232 Mont. 390, 758 P.2d 260. S ...