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RES JUDICATA

Lat. "the thing has been decided" The principle that a final judgement of a competent court is conclusive upon the parties in any subsequent litigation involving the same cause of action.

The general rule is that a plaintiff who has prosecuted one action against a defendant and obtained a valid final judgment is barred by res judicata from prosecuting another action against the same defendant where (a) the claim in the second action is one which is based on the same factual transaction that was at issue in the first; (b) the plaintiff seeks a remedy additional or alternative to the one sought earlier; and (c) the claim is of such a nature as could have been joined in the first action. Underlying this standard is the need to strike a delicate balance between the interests of the defendant and of the courts in bringing litigation to a close and the interest of the plaintiff in the vindication of a just claim.

The Full Faith and Credit Act, 28 U.S.C. S 1738, requires that federal courts "give a state-court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under the law of the State in which the judgment was rendered. " Migra v. Warren City School Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984). Oregon courts adhere to standard principles of claim and issue preclusion. See Rennie v. Freeway Transp., 294 Or. 319 (1982).

The difference between the two concepts has been succinctly described by Justice Potter Stewart: The federal courts have traditionally adhered to the related doctrines of res judicata [claim preclusion] and collateral estoppel [issue preclusion]. Under res judicata, a final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in that action. Under collateral estoppel, once a court has decided an issue of fact or law ncessary to its judgment, that decision may preclude relitigation of the issue in a suit on a different cause of action involving a party to the first case. As this Court and other courts have often recognized, res judicata and collateral estoppel relieve parties of the costs and vexation of multiple lawsuits, conserve judicial resources, and, by preventing inconsistent decisions, encourage reliance on adjudication. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. at 94. The collateral estoppel bar is inapplicable when the claimant did not have a "full and fair opportunity to litigate" the issue decided by the state court. Id. at 101. Thus, a claimant can file a federal suit to challenge the adequacy of state procedures.

RECOGNIZED EXCEPTIONS

First, consent or tacit agreement is clear justification for splitting a claim. Restatement (Second) of Judgments S 26(1)(a), and comment a (1982). Because a primary purpose of claim preclusion is to protect defendants from being harassed by repetitive actions based on the same claim, the rule need not be enforced where the State and County have implicitly consented to the splitting of claim under state and federal laws. See Rennie, 294 Or. at 329 n. 9 (citing 18 Charles A. Wright, Arthur C. Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure S 4415 at 124-125; and Annot., 40 A.L.R.3d 108 (1971)).

Second, it may appear in the course of an action that the plaintiff is splitting a claim, but that there are special reasons that justify his doing so, and accordingly that the judgment in the action ought not to have the usual consequences of extinguishing the entire claim; rather the plaintiff should be left with an opportunity to litigate in a second action that part of the claim which he justifiably omitted from the first action. Restatement (Second) of Judgments S 26(1)(b).

The so called England reservation is available to litigants that are in state court "involuntarily" as a result of Pullman absention by the federal court. See England v. Louisiana State Bd. of Medical Examiners, 375 U.S. 411 (1964); see also Railroad Comm'n of Texas v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S.496 (1941). England reservation applies when a litigant files a suit in federal court and the federal court stays proceedings to allow the state courts to consider state law questions. In such a situation, the litigant can inform the state court that she reserves federal issues for federal court. Id. at 421. By doing so, the litigant avoids the bar of res judicata upon return to federal court.

Res judicata bars a party from bringing a claim if a court of competent jurisdiction has rendered final judgment on the merits in a previous action involving the same parties and claims. In re Intl Nutronics, Inc., 28 F.3d 965, 969 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 577 (1994).

Once a bankruptcy plan is confirmed, it is binding on all parties and all questions that could have been raised pertaining to the plan are entitled to res judicata effect. See 11 U.S.C. section 1141(a).

The decision of a legal or equitable issue, by a court of competent jurisdiction.

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.

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.

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.

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