Legal Memorandum: Untimely Filing of a Claim

Issue: Whether a suit is barred due to an untimely filing of a claim after a court-ordered public notice that interests in the subject land were being litigated and that interested persons were required file their claims or oppositions by a certain date or be forever barred from claiming any right or interest in the land.

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Suit is barred; Untimely filing of a claim; Right or interest in the land barred
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 92 F.3d 743; 338 F.2d 906
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2005

In Nat’l Wildlife Fed’n v. Gorsuch, 744 F.2d 963 (3d Cir. 1984), the court affirmed the district court’s ruling that the plaintiffs’ suit was an impermissible collateral attack on consent judgments entered in earlier litigation in which the plaintiffs’ motion to intervene was denied as untimely.  The plaintiffs argued that since they were not parties to the prior litigation, they should not be bound by the judgments.  The court acknowledged that “[p]recluding an independent action by a nonparty to an earlier lawsuit because of a failure to intervene in that suit has been characterized as a ‘new and tentative’ concept” and that “[s]trong countervailing considerations counsel careful weighing of the circumstances before applying this emerging doctrine.”  The court noted that the plaintiffs there,  “do not disguise the fact that the present suit is an effort to bring before the court the same matters encompassed in their proposed intervention which the court denied.”

The Gorsuch court turned to its earlier decision in Society Hill Civic Ass’n v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045 (3d Cir. 1980), for guidance.  There the court said with respect to a group of property owners whose motion to intervene in prior litigation was denied because they had delayed two and a half years in bringing it: “An unjustified or unreasonable failure to intervene can serve to bar a later collateral attack. . . .  These property owners should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their own tardiness by recasting their motion for intervention as a complaint in […]

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