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Law of the Case Doctrine, Re-litigation

There are numerous legal theories and arguments which prohibit the re-litigation of certain issues that were previously decided (e.g, collateral estoppel, res judicata). One such theory — the “law-of-the-case doctrine” — dictates that a previous holding or finding in a case constitutes the law of the case and precludes re-litigation of the issue on remand and subsequent appeal. Walton v. City of Berkeley, 223 S.W.3d 126, 128-29 (Mo. 2007). It usually applies in the context of appeals and successive adjudications involving the same issues and facts. Id. The end result is that generally the decision of a court remains throughout the case. The purposes of the law-of-the-case doctrine is to preserve uniformity, protect party expectations and promote judicial economy. Id.

Although this is largely a rule of convenience, it may not apply where the issues or evidence are substantially different from those vital to the first adjudication and judgment. Id. Accordingly, there is a degree of discretion in applying the theory.