Res Judicata

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Res Judicata

[Latin, A thing adjudged.] A rule that a final judgment on the merits by a court having jurisdiction is conclusive between the parties to a suit as to all matters that were litigated or that could have been litigated in that suit.The U.S. legal system places a high value on allowing a party to litigate a civil lawsuit for money damages only once. U.S. courts employ the rule of res judicata to prevent a dissatisfied party from trying to litigate the issue a second time.

Res judicata will be applied to a pending lawsuit if several facts can be established by the party asserting the res judicata defense. First, the party must show that a final judgment on the merits of the case had been entered by a court having jurisdiction over the matter. This means that a final decision in the first lawsuit was based on the factual and legal disputes between the parties rather than a procedural defect, such as the failure to serve the defendant with legal process.

Once a court makes a final decision, it enters a final judgment in the case. The judgment recites pertinent data about the case, such as the names of the parties, the fact that a jury verdict was rendered, and the disposition made. The judgment is filed with the court administrator for that judicial jurisdiction.

The party asserting res judicata, having introduced a final judgment on the merits, must then show that the decision in the first lawsuit was conclusive as to the matters in the second suit. For example, assume that the plaintiff in the first lawsuit asserted that she was injured in an auto accident. She sues the driver of the other auto under a theory of Negligence. A jury returns a verdict that finds that the defendant was not negligent. The injured driver then files a second lawsuit alleging additional facts that would help her prove that the other driver was negligent. A court would dismiss the second lawsuit under res judicata because the second lawsuit is based on the same Cause of Action (negligence) and the same injury claim.

Under the companion rule of Collateral Estoppel, the plaintiff will not be allowed to file a second lawsuit for money damages using a different cause of action or claim. Under collateral estoppel, the parties are precluded from litigating a second lawsuit using a different cause of action based on any issue of fact common to both suits that had been litigated and determined in the first suit. For example, the plaintiff who lost her auto accident case based on a theory of negligence cannot proceed with a second lawsuit based on an allegation that the driver intentionally struck her auto, thus making it an intentional tort cause of action. A court would assert collateral estoppel because the plaintiff could have alleged an intentional tort cause of action in the original complaint.

The application of res judicata and collateral estoppel produces finality for the parties and promotes judicial economy. Parties know that when final judgment is entered and all appeals are exhausted, the case is over and the decision will be binding on all issues determined in the lawsuit.

res judicata

(rayz judy-cot-ah) n. Latin, the thing has been judged, meaning the issue before the court has already been decided by another court, with the same parties. Therefore, the court will dismiss the case before it as being useless. Example: an Ohio court determines that John is the father of Betty's child. John cannot raise the issue again in another state. Sometimes called res adjudicata.

RES JUDICATA, practice. The decision of a legal or equitable issue, by a court of competent jurisdiction.
     2. It is a general principle that such decision is binding and conclusive upon all other courts of concurrent power. This principle pervades not only our own, but all other systems of jurisprudence, and has become a rule of universal law, founded on the soundest policy. If, therefore, Paul sue Peter to recover the amount due to him upon a bond and on the trial the plaintiff fails to prove the due execution of the bond by Peter, in consequence of which a verdict is rendered for the defendant, and judgment is entered thereupon, this judgment, till reversed on error, is conclusive upon the parties, and Paul cannot recover in a subsequent suit, although he may then be able to prove the due execution of the bond by Peter, and that the money is due to him, for, to use the language of the civilians, res judicata facit ex albo nigrum, ex nigro album, ex curvo redum, ex recto curvum.
     3. The constitution of the United States and the amendments to it declare, that no fact, once tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexaminable in any court of the United States than according to the rules of the common law. 3 Pet. 433; Dig. 44, 2; and Voet, Ibid; Kaime's Equity, vol. 2, p. 367; 1 Johns. Ch. R. 95; 2 M. R. 142; 3 M. R. 623; 4 M. R. 313, 456, 481; 5 M. R. 282, 465; 9 M. R. 38; 11 M. R. 607; 6 N. S. 292; 5 N. S. 664; 1 L. R. 318; 8 L. R. 187; 11 L. R. 517. Toullier, Droit Civil Francais, vol. 10, No. 65 to 259.
     4. But in order to make a matter res judicata there must be a concurrence of the four conditions following, namely: 1. Identity in the thing sued for. 2. Identity of the cause of action; if, for example, I have claimed a right of way over Blackacre, and a final judgment has been rendered against me, and afterwards I purchase Blackacre, this first decision shall not be a bar to my recovery, when I sue as owner of the land, and not for an easement over it, which I claimed as a right appurtenant to My land Whiteacre. 3. Identity of persons and of parties to the action; this rule is a necessary consequence of the rule of natural justice: ne inauditus condemnetur. 4. Identity of the quality in the persons for or against whom the claim is made; for example, an action by Peter to recover a horse, and a final judgment against him, is no bar to an action by Peter, administrator of Paul, to recover the same horse. Vide, Things adjudged.

References in periodicals archive ?
Whilst this allows them to depart from the doctrine of res judicata, it is also limiting in the sense that common law principles are multifarious and are not simply limited to the res judicata principle.
The court explained, "The doctrine of res judicata is interpreted stricti juris, and any doubt regarding compliance with its requirements is to be resolved in favor of the plaintiff." 657 So.
The Ninth Circuit, however, in applying the doctrine of res judicata, found an identity of issues when it did not exist.
Accordingly, we hold that Bennett's alter-ego claim also is not precluded under Virginia's doctrine of res judicata.
We have explained the doctrine of res judicata as follows: "A judgment on the merits rendered in a former suit between the same parties or their privies, upon the same cause of action, by a court of competent jurisdiction, is conclusive not only as to every matter which was offered and received to sustain or defeat the claim, but as to every other matter which might with propriety have been litigated and determined in that action." (57)
Under the judicial doctrine of res judicata, when a court has entered final judgment on a cause of action, the parties to the suit are bound by this judgment with respect to every matter that was offered and received in support of or in opposition to the claim or demand and any other admissible matter that might have been offered for that purpose.
In a decision handed down last June, a state court of appeals grappled with the issue of whether the doctrine of res judicata precludes spouses from filing civil tort claims after a divorce petition has been filed.
Accordingly, the court applied the legal doctrine of res judicata to bar Dr.
The district court dismissed the case under the doctrine of res judicata.(109)
Like the law of the case doctrine, the doctrine of res judicata enforces finality by discouraging relitigation of issues previously decided.
Ordlock was to limit the application of the doctrine of res judicata, not to limit the application of community property laws.
The dissent in DeRico challenged the majority's disregard of the doctrine of res judicata. A determination of paternity cannot be changed without a finding of fraud once a final judgment of paternity or dissolution has been entered.[12] The dissent pointed out the trial court determined the wife had not committed fraud because the trial court found the wife believed the children were the husband's until "she learned the DNA results."

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