A finding of a particular fact is not res judicata in a subsequent action, where the finding not only is not essential to support the judgment, but is found in favor of the party against whom the judgment is rendered, and, if allowed to control, leads to a result different from that which actually has been reached.
A truck driver, appellee motorist, and appellant injured party were involved in an automobile accident. The truck owner brought an action against appellee for damages sustained in the accident. Appellee joined appellant as a third party defendant and sought recovery against him for damages to appellee's truck. Appellee pled res judicata and collateral estoppel based on a prior action that found appellant negligent, but resolved the case in his favor. The trial court sustained the plea. On appeal, appellant contended that the trial court erred in sustaining appellee's plea based on the finding of appellant's negligence because the judgment entered was in favor of appellant. The court held that the right of appeal was from a judgment and not from a finding; thus, where the finding that appellant was negligent was not essential or material to the judgment and the judgment was in appellant's favor, the finding was not res judicata.
Did the court err in entering judgment for appellee based upon his plea of res judicata and collateral estoppel?
The finding that appellant was negligent was not essential or material to the earlier judgment and the judgment was not based thereon. Since the judgment was in favor of appellant, he had no right or opportunity to complain of or to appeal from the finding that he was guilty of such negligence even if such finding had been without any support whatever in the evidence. The right of appeal is from a judgment and not from a finding. The principles controlling the fact situation here involved are stated in the following. The annotation in 133 A.L.R. 840, page 850 states: "According to the weight of authority, a finding of a particular fact is not res judicata in a subsequent action, where the finding not only was not essential to support the judgment, but was found in favor of the party against whom the judgment was rendered, and, if allowed to control, would have led to a result different from that actually reached."