Legal Memorandum: Collateral Estoppel and Relitigation of Issues

Issue: When may issue preclusion or collateral estoppel be used to prevent relitigation of an issue?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Collateral estoppel; Relitigation of issues; Issue preclusion
Jurisdiction: Federal, Utah
Cited Cases: 21 Cal. 4th 815; 69 Cal. App. 4th 607; 637 N.E.2d 917; 827 P.2d 241; 735 P.2d 387; 982 P.2d 229
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2012

Issue preclusion, often referred to as collateral estoppel, prevents the relitigation of issues that have already been determined in a previous action.  Madsen v. Borthick, 769 P.2d 245, 250 (Utah 1988).  Issue preclusion applies only if four requirements are met:  (1) the issue in both cases is identical; (2) the judgment is final with respect to that issue; (3) the issue was fully, fairly, and competently litigated in the first action; and (4) the party who is precluded from litigating the issue was either a party to the first action or a privy of a party.  Id.  "If any one of these requirements is not satisfied, there can be no issue preclusion."  Hill v. Seattle First Nat’l Bank, 827 P.2d 241, 245 (Utah 1992) (citations omitted); accord Copper State Thrift & Loan v. Bruno, 735 P.2d 387, 389 (Utah Ct. App. 1987). 

As courts throughout the United States have recognized, collateral estoppel precludes the relitigation only of identical issues necessarily decided in previous litigation.  See, e.g., Vandenberg v. Superior Court, 21 Cal. 4th 815, 828, 982 P.2d 229 (1999).)  In other words, for collateral estoppel to bar the relitigation of an issue, precisely the same issue must have previously been litigated and decided.  See Thompson v. Wing, 637 N.E.2d 917, 924 (Ohio 1994).  In the Thompson case, the court held that it was not enough that a similar issue regarding the […]

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