Under the doctrine of issue preclusion, a person may not assert an issue in a lawsuit that has previously been litigated in another lawsuit.
The defendant was the plaintiff's lawyer in a divorce case. Plaintiff refused to pay $345 in legal fees to the defendant. As a result, defendant sued plaintiff to recover the fees. Plaintiff claimed that the fees were unreasonable because defendant was unsatisfactory as a lawyer. The court ruled in favor of defendant, and plaintiff sued defendant for malpractice. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment based on issue preclusion, claiming that the previous lawsuit decided the issue of defendant’s malpractice in his favor. The court ruled in favor of Defendant, and Plaintiff appealed.
Was the summary judgment properly granted?
In ruling against the plaintiff, the Court held that a person may not assert an issue in a lawsuit that has been previously litigated in another lawsuit. In this case, a lawsuit for legal fees and a lawsuit for legal malpractice for the same services bring up the same issue on the quality of the lawyer’s services. Since the issue of the defendant's legal services had been dealt with at the previous trial, the plaintiff is precluded from relitigating the issue in her action for legal malpractice. The lower court's ruling was affirmed.