Caselaw Wednesday – Res Judiwho?

Recently, the Third District Court of Appeal here in Florida decided any interesting issue regarding cases where lawsuits are filed by a remediation company under an assignment of benefits and also by an insured.

In Brito v. Heritage[1], the Britos filed suit against Heritage to recover damages associated with their roof. A mold testing company also filed suit seeking to recover the cost of their invoice, billed under an assignment of benefits.

The mold testing company lost at trial. Subsequently, Heritage moved for summary judgment in the Britos’ lawsuit contending that the Britos’ claim was now barred under the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata. The trial court granted Heritage’s motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, the Third District Court reversed the trial court’s ruling, holding that the doctrine of collateral estoppel and res judicata were not applicable because the parties were not identical nor were they “privies.” Since both parties (the Britos and the mold testing company) were not bound by the prior judgment, neither could use it in a subsequent action. Additionally, Heritage could have established privity between the Britos and the mold testing company if:

  • (1) the nonparty agreed to be bound by the litigation of others;
  • (2) a substantive legal relationship existed between the person to be bound and a party to the judgment;
  • (3) the nonparty was adequately represented by someone who was a party to the suit;
  • (4) the nonparty assumed control over the litigation in which the judgment was issued;
  • (5) a party attempted to relitigate issues through a proxy; or
  • (6) a statutory scheme foreclosed successive litigation by nonlitigants.

None of those things were established by Heritage.

[1] Brito v. Heritage Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1898 (Fla. 3d DCA July 24, 2019)

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