Part III - Res judicata Bars Respondents from Re-litigating Case That Was Dismissed with Prejudice

To continue our blog on the Estate of Redfield (193 Cal. App. 4th 1526 (2011)), Nancy Horan (petitioner and appellant) appealed the trial court's decision to reopen the final judgment of the probate court for the purpose of reconsidering the characterization of the $136,000 that was transferred to Horan approximately a week before Patricia Redfield's (decedent) death, as part of the estate. The California Court of Appeal agreed with Horan stating that a dismissal with prejudice constitutes a final judgment on the merits and therefore prohibits the dismissing party from re-litigating those issues. The Court of Appeal further determined that the doctrine of res judicata applied to resolve the issues that were barred by the dismissal with prejudice.

In this case, the doctrine of res judicata applied since 1) there was a final judgment on the merits; 2) the issue decided in the prior adjudication was identical with the one presented in the subsequent litigation and 3) the party against whom the principle is invoked is the same as the party in the prior adjudication. Since res judicata applies, then it bars respondents from re-litigating whether the $136,000 is part of the estate and correspondingly, the trial court had no authority to re-characterize that money. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment.

*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be construed as professional legal advice.

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