Legal Memorandum: Doctrine of Res Judicata in UT

Issue: What are the two branches of res judicata and how does res judicata apply in Utah courts?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Res judicata; Claim preclusion; Issue preclusion
Jurisdiction: Federal, Utah
Cited Cases: 663 F. Supp. 370; 769 P.2d 245; 627 P.2d 528; 758 P.2d 451; 248 N.E.2d 539; 766 P.2d 1059; 669 P.2d 873; 465 U.S. 75; 986 P.2d 765
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2012

The doctrine of res judicata is comprised of two different branches: claim preclusion and issue preclusion.[1]  

Claim preclusion, or what has often been referred to more generally as res judicata, will bar the relitigation of a cause of action if three conditions are met:  (1) first, both cases must involve the same parties or their privies; (2) second, the claim that is alleged to be barred must have been presented in the first suit, or must be one that could and should have been raised in the first action, but was not raised by any of the parties; and (3) third, the first suit must have resulted in a final judgment on the merits.  Madsen v. Borthick, 769 P.2d 245, 247 (Utah 1988); accord Bradshaw v. Kershaw, 627 P.2d 528 (Utah 1981).  When these three conditions are met, the result in the prior action constitutes the full relief available to the parties on the same claim or cause of action.  Mel Trimble Real Estate v. Monte Vista Ranch, Inc., 758 P.2d 451, 453 (Utah Ct. App. 1988). 

The Utah Supreme Court has defined a claim or cause of action as "the aggregate of operative facts which give rise to a right enforceable in the courts."  Am. Estate Mgmt. Corp. v. Int’l Inv. & Dev. Corp., 986 P.2d 765, 767 (Utah Ct. App. 1999) (quoting Swainston v. Intermountain Health Care, Inc.,