April 11, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No.
1:15-cv-01784-RLY-MPB - Richard L. Young, Judge.
Bauer, Sykes, and Barrett, Circuit Judges.
Kilburn-Winnie and Michelle Allen-Gregory (collectively,
"Appellants") filed suit against the To wn of
Fortville, Indiana, Fortville Waterworks, and Fortville
Utilities (collectively, "Fortville"), alleging
that their Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights
were violated when Fortville disconnected their water
service. The district court granted summary judgment in favor
of Fortville, holding that res judicata barred
Appellants' claim because the parties had settled a prior
class action that involved the same claim. We affirm.
2014, Allen-Gregory filed a putative class action alleging
that Fortville violated the class members' Fourteenth
Amendment right to procedural due process when it terminated
their water service without affording them a hearing. See
Allen-Gregory v. Town of Fortville, No.
1:14-cv-01148-RLY- DML (S.D. Ind.) ("Fortville
I"). Two months later, the class filed a motion for
preliminary injunction to prevent Fortville from
disconnecting any customer's water without a hearing. In
response, Fortville revised its notice and disconnection
procedures, instituting a hearing process effective November
2014. In December 2014, however, the class plaintiffs filed
another motion for preliminary injunction, alleging that the
new procedures still did not comport with due process.
January 23, 2015, while that motion was pending, the parties
agreed to the terms of settlement at a settlement conference,
which was later reduced to a formal written agreement. On
September 10, 2015, the district court entered an order
granting final approval of the settlement agreement and
dismissing the case with prejudice. Though the case was fully
resolved at that point, the district court entered another
order twelve days later dismissing as moot both motions for
settlement agreement stated that its purpose was to
"fully, finally, and forever resolve, discharge and
settle all claims released herein on behalf of the named
plaintiffs and the entire class." It defined the class
and class members as "[a]ll customers of the Town of
Fortville, Fortville Utilities and/or Fortville Water
Department from July 9, 2012 through October 31, 2014 who had
their water service terminated and who paid a reconnection
fee to reestablish their water service." The agreement
included an expansive and global release of all claims,
stating, as relevant to this case:
Named Plaintiffs and the Class will release any and all
claims against [Fortville] and any related entities which
claims relate to the actions alleged to have violated the due
process provision of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution
of the United States, including pre-litigation, litigation,
and post-litigation activities. The claims released by Named
Plaintiffs and the Class will include all claims that were or
could have been raised in [Fortville I].
received settlement proceeds as a member of the class, as
well as an additional award for acting as the named plaintiff
and class representative. Kilburn-Winnie was a member of the
class based upon water disconnections that occurred in
February and June of 2014, and she received settlement
proceeds pursuant to the agreement.
November 2015, Kilburn-Winnie filed the instant case alleging
that Fortville disconnected her water service again as a
result of her failure to pay her water bill on time in March
and April of 2015. The complaint was later amended to add
Allen-Gregory as a named plaintiff and include allegations
that she had her service disconnected in December 2015
because she failed to pay her bill on time. The amended
complaint claimed that the hearing procedures Fortville
implemented in November 2014 were so complicated and
burdensome that they violated Appellants' Fourteenth
Amendment procedural due process rights.
moved to dismiss the complaint, citing the release of claims
in the settlement agreement in Fortville I. The
district court converted the motion into one for summary
judgment and proceeded to analyze whether the terms of the
release acted as a waiver of Appellants' due process
rights. It held that Allen-Gregory had waived her rights, but
Kilburn-Winnie had not because waiver of a constitutional
right requires a knowing and voluntary relinquishment, and
she did not personally sign the agreement.
months later, however, the court revisited that ruling
sua sponte and granted summary judgment to Fortville
as to both Appellants, but on different grounds. It found
that the claim in the present complaint was identical to the
claim raised by the second motion for preliminary injunction
in Fortville I. Therefore, because the claim was
completely resolved by way of the ...