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Collateral Estoppel — Issue Preclusion

Courts are crowded with litigation. To combat this overcrowding, judicial doctrines have been developed to cut down on repetitive litigation and help facilitate prompt judicial resolutions.  Collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, precludes the same parties, or those in privity with the parties, from re-litigating issues that have been previously litigated.

In deciding whether collateral estoppel is proper, Courts consider: (1) whether the issue in the present case is identical to the issue decided in the prior adjudication; (2) whether the prior adjudication resulted in a judgment on the merits; (3) whether the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted was a party, or was in privity with a party, to the prior adjudication; and (4) whether the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior adjudication. Collateral estoppel will not be applied where to do so would be inequitable.  Fairness is the overriding consideration. Each case must be analyzed on its own facts.

Consequently, when contemplating litigation, it is important to discover whether the similar issue has been litigated and resulted in a judicial finding. At the same time, it is vital to have your say in litigation which could indirectly adjudicate your rights.

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