What is claim splitting?
Annoying Legal Disclaimer
This blog should not be considered legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. I'm writing this short blog to share a very brief explanation of claim-splitting to save other's time in researching the same.
Claim splitting is when a civil plaintiff "splits" one lawsuit into two or more lawsuits.
The Relevant Test
“(1) whether the case involves the same parties and their privies, and (2) whether separate cases arise from the same transaction or series of transactions.” 857 F.3d 833, 841-42 (11th Cir. 2017).
Claim splitting is like gardening.
Imagine you plant a fresh batch of seeds in your garden. One month later you return to your garden to find a fresh crop of ripe plants. You harvest half of the ripe plants and leave the other half. But then you return a week later to harvest the other half of the ripe crop. You have committed garden splitting.
Similarly, if a civil plaintiff has two ripe claims, involving the same parties, the plaintiff must "harvest" both ripe claims at the same time. The plaintiff cannot file a lawsuit on one ripe claim, and then later file a lawsuit for the other ripe claim under the theory of claim splitting.
In Vanover v. NCO Fin. Servs., 857 F.3d 833 (11th Cir. 2017) the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in federal court against the defendant for violating various debt collection laws between 2013 and 2014.
After the first lawsuit was filed, the same plaintiff filed suit against the same defendant in state court alleging similar allegations of unlawful debt collections between 2010 and 2013.
The plaintiff claimed the two lawsuits were different because they were based on separate unlawful attempts to collect separate debts –– however, the unlawful debt collections in the second Vanover case had already occurred at the time the first case was filed. The Court ultimately upheld a dismissal of the second suit because the claims were available to the plaintiff at the time the first suit was filed.
The court in Vanover used a two prong test to determine if claim splitting had occurred: “(1) whether the case involves the same parties and their privies, and (2) whether separate cases arise from the same transaction or series of transactions.” 857 F.3d 833, 841-42 (11th Cir. 2017).
In deciding on the second prong of the test, the Vanover court concluded, “all of the alleged wrongs by NCO occurred consecutively in time and prior to filing the compliant [sic] in Vanover I; hence, the collection efforts which form the basis of Vanover I and Vanover II arise from the same transaction or series of transactions.” (emphasis added) Id.