If there is any privity between the parties in two actions and if their interests are similar[i], then such parties are considered as the same. Generally, the question of privity between parties arises in class actions. Class action is a form of law suit where a large group of people collectively bring a single claim to the court.
If a member of the class who already represented in the class action files an independent action as an individual to enforce his/her own right, the question of privity between parties seeking the same relief and the effect of privity on abatement of actions commonly arises[ii].
Whereas, a pending class action abates a subsequent action commenced by a member of the class to enforce a claim included in the class suit[iii]. The independent suit by an individual can be precluded by state statute if an adequate class action is pending[iv].
A class action is not a ground for abatement of a subsequent action if the parties purporting to represent the class action are hostile on a vital issue[v], or if the subsequent action is based on an issue not included in the class action.
In Leonard v. Bye, 361 Ill. 185 (Ill. 1935), a creditor initiated an action against the stockholder to recover from the stockholder. The stockholder filed a motion to dismiss the action and contended that there was another action pending between the same parties for the same cause of action.
The court observed that the pendency of a prior action for the same cause of action in a court between the same parties will abate a later action. The court further found the later action in the present case was unnecessary and vexatious. Hence, the court abated the later action.
[i] Philips Elecs., N.V. v. New Hampshire Ins. Co., 295 Ill. App. 3d 895 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998)
[ii] Leonard v. Bye, 361 Ill. 185 (Ill. 1935)
[iii] Wabash R. Co. v. Koenig, 274 F. 909 (8th Cir. Mo. 1921)
[iv] Hobart v. Baum, 237 Ind. 316 (Ind. 1957)
[v] State ex rel. Flodin v. District Court Fifteenth Judicial Dist., 222 Minn. 546 (Minn. 1946)