Seventh Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for School Administrators Based Claim Preclusion

October 29, 2021

Some people just won’t take “no” for an answer. Robert Green is such a person. Green was a coach and PE teacher for the Aurora East Unified School District No. 131 for several decades before he was fired for laying hands on his students. He had sued the School District in 2007 and again in 2015 over his employment-related matters. Both cases settled, and Green signed broad release agreements.

Green sued again in 2019, raising the same employment discrimination claims based on age (over 60), sex (male), and race (Black) that he had brought in the previous two lawsuits. The hook to his new suit was a claim that he had only recently learned that the School District had not complied with a 2014 subpoena from the Illinois State Board of Education (not from Green himself) for Green’s personnel file. Green claimed that the prior settlements were the product of fraud and should be set aside. The School District moved to dismiss Green’s claims. The district court agreed and granted the motion. Undeterred, Green appealed.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court unanimously and without oral argument. It agreed with the district court that most of Green’s claims against the School District and its employees were barred by claim preclusion. Green had previously sued the same defendant (the School District) over the same subject matter (his employment), and those cases were dismissed with prejudice (pursuant to settlement). Claim preclusion barred him from bringing such claims again, despite his attempt to dress them up in new language. To the extent his claims were not barred by claim preclusion, they were barred by the broad release language covering “all claims known and unknown” in the settlement agreements he signed. Green had no claim for an alleged failure to respond to a subpoena in 2014 because he signed a blanket release in 2016.  Finally, Green’s allegations of fraud were not pleaded with specificity, and in any event, courts do not entertain an argument to rescind a settlement agreement based on alleged fraud where, as here, party claiming fraud did not offer to return the settlement funds.

Aurora East Unified School District No. 131 and its personnel were represented by Hervas, Condon, & Bersani partners Mike Bersani and David Mathues.

Green v. Illinois State Board of Education

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