Finality re: Collateral Estoppel, Res Judicata

Collateral estoppel is  a “court-made doctrine,” precluding re-litigation of an issue previously decided. Sexton v. Jenkins & Associates, Inc., 152 S.W.3d 270, 273 (Mo. 2004). To be “final” for collateral estoppel purposes, a judgment need only be “sufficiently firm to be accorded conclusive effect.” Ogle v. Guardsman Ins. Co., 701 S.W.2d 469, 471 (Mo. App. E.D. 1985) (CITING RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF THE LAW OF JUDGMENTS, § 13). More pertinently, “a judgment on the merits at the trial-court level is considered a final judgment for purposes of res judicata and collateral estoppel, even if the appeal of that judgment is still pending.” Noble v. Shawnee Gun Shop, Inc., 316 S.W.3d 364, 369 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010). So, a judgment is “final” for collateral estoppel purposes when it is entered and “sufficiently firm.”

Confusingly, “finality” for purposes of appeal is different. “The right to appeal is purely statutory, and where a statute does not give a right to appeal, no right exists.” Jefferson Cnty. 9-1-1 Dispatch v. Plaggenberg, 645 S.W.3d 473, 475 (Mo. 2022). Generally, only a “final” judgment is eligible for appeal, and this requires a judgment that

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