Res Judicata

Whenever you decide to appeal a court’s ruling on your case, it is crucial to understand what you can and cannot appeal. The concept of res judicata (Latin for a matter already judged) is a legal term that once the court rules on this particular issue, a person may not appeal that ruling. The issue of what res judicata covers was recently discussed by the Dallas Court of Appeals in PHOUANGSAVATH v. SUTTON PLACE HOA.

What is res judicata?

Generally, res judicata, also know as claim preclusion, is a legal tool that stops an issue that was or should have been brought up from being brought up again on appeal. res judicata requires a few things the court can address the issue. First, at the trial level, the court must issue a judgment or an order equal to a judgment. For example, if an attorney filed a valid legal argument two days late, the judge might dismiss the case on the merits, thereby allowing the use of res judicata. The second requirement of res judicata is that the issue at the center of the argument was one that was or could have been raised at the trial stage. Finally, res judicata requires that both parties be bound equally by the judgment at the center of the res judicata argument.

In the Phouangsavath case, the court applied the Texas standard for res judicata which restricts a res judicata claim to an issue that was actually raised at the trial level. In this case, Sutton Place HOA used a third party towing company to tow Mr. Phouangsavath’s car, claiming that the car occupied a fire lane in violation of the HOA’s parking rules. Mr. Phouangsavath sued the towing company and the justice court held that the towing violated the rights of Mr. Phouangsavath. Mr. Phouangsavath then sued the HOA for damages and attorney fees relating to the towing incident. The trial court claimed that Mr. Phouangsavath’s was attempting to recover the exact same damages and fees that he recovered in the suit against the towing company. The trial court barred Mr. Phouangsavath’s claim with a res judicata ruling. Basically, the court would not allow Mr. Phouangsavath to sue and recover the same amount from two different parties for one incident because this would allow Mr. Phouangsavath to recover damages greater than his loss. Because the cout already granted these damages in a previous case, res judicata disallowed Mr. Phouangsavath to recover the same amount in a different lawsuit.

If you believe you have an issue that might involve a court ruling of res judicata, call Guest and Gray Law Firm’s defense team today. Guest and Gray Law Firm is a full service civil and criminal defense law firm serving the entire DFW Metroplex including Dallas, Kaufman, Rockwall and surrounding counties. Our main office is in Forney, Texas where we have served the community since 1967. We also have office locations in Rockwall and Kaufman, Texas. Our team of lawyers is ready to help with any procedural law concern you have.