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A.H. v. Midwest Bus Sales, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 19, 2016

A. H., a minor, by and through his Next Friend, Tracy Hubbard, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Midwest Bus Sales, Inc., Defendant - Appellee; Renna Yi, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Midwest Bus Sales, Inc., Defendant - Appellee

         Submitted February 9, 2016.

Page 449

          Appeals from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City.

         For A. H., a minor, by and through his Next Friend, Tracy Hubbard, Plaintiff - Appellant (15-2317): Anita Porte Robb, Gary Charles Robb, Robb & Robb, Kansas City, MO.

         For Midwest Bus Sales, Inc., Defendant - Appellee (15-2317, 15-2318): Matthew W. Geary, Patrick Kevin McMonigle, Dysart & Taylor, Kansas City, MO.

         For Renna Yi, Plaintiff - Appellant (15-2318): Anita Porte Robb, Gary Charles Robb, Robb & Robb, Kansas City, MO.

         Before RILEY, Chief Judge, LOKEN and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

Page 450

          RILEY, Chief Judge.

         Missouri citizens A.H. and Renna Yi, both minors, were passengers on a school bus that collided with a pickup truck, causing them serious injuries. A.H.'s parents, and his mother Tracy Hubbard on A.H.'s behalf, and Yi's parents, and her mother Huairen Yi on Yi's behalf, separately sued numerous entities in Missouri state court, including the manufacturer and retailer of the bus and the manufacturer of its brakes, alleging, among other things, the brakes were defective. Kansas citizen Midwest Bus Sales, Inc. (Midwest Bus), the retail seller of the bus, originally was a party to each action, but was omitted from subsequent amended complaints. The consolidated cases went to trial against the remaining defendants, the jury found in favor of all the remaining defendants, the state trial court entered judgment, and the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed.

         A.H. (through his Next Friend, Tracy Hubbard) and Yi (appellants) also each sued Midwest Bus in federal court in the Western District of Missouri in diversity actions under Missouri law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), (c)(1)-(2). The district court[1] granted Midwest Bus's motions to dismiss, deciding appellants' claims were barred by res judicata, also known as claim preclusion.[2] Appellants appeal. We affirm on

Page 451

the alternative basis that appellants' claims are barred by collateral estoppel, also known as issue preclusion.[3]

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 9, 2005, A.H. and Renna Yi were riding in a Liberty Public School District (LPSD) school bus that crashed into a pickup truck as the bus sped through an intersection located at the bottom of a hill in Liberty, Missouri. According to the bus driver, the bus's brakes failed as she drove down the hill, so she began swerving to avoid the vehicles in the intersection but ultimately crashed into the truck.

         The following month, A.H. and Yi each filed suit in the Circuit Court of Clay County, Missouri, against, among others, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, LLC (Bendix), the manufacturer of the brakes; Thomas Built Buses, Inc. (Thomas Built), the manufacturer of the bus; Freightliner, LLC (Freightliner), Thomas Built's parent company; and Midwest Bus, the retail seller of the bus.[4] Midwest Bus was not named in either A.H's or Yi's final amended petitions.[5]

         A jury trial took place early in 2013 with Bendix, Thomas Built, and Freightliner (state court defendants) as named defendants. The claims were against

(1) Bendix for strict liability for selling defective automatic slack adjusters (ASAs), which are a component of the brake system;
(2) Bendix for strict liability for failing to warn that the ASAs were unreasonably dangerous;
(3) Thomas Built for strict liability for selling a defective bus; and
(4) Freightliner for negligently failing to warn Thomas Built that manual adjustment of the ASAs was dangerous.

         The state court defendants' theory of the crash was " pedal misapplication," that is, the bus driver was pressing the accelerator when she thought she was pressing the brake. The jury found in favor of all these defendants on all claims. In October 2014, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed. See Gleason v. Bendix Commercial Vehicle Sys., LLC, 452 S.W.3d 158, 185 (Mo.Ct.App. 2014).

         In March 2015, A.H. and Yi each filed parallel diversity suits against Midwest Bus in the Western District of Missouri. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), (c)(1)-(2). Both complaints alleged Midwest Bus (1) inspected the bus before delivering it to LPSD but " ...


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