Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff, James Jarosz, appeals a judgment of collateral estoppel in his case against Defendant, Stephen Palmer, for breach of fiduciary duty and legal malpractice.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. For the doctrine of collateral estoppel to apply, an issue must have not only been actually litigated and determined by a final judgment, but the final judgment must have been essential to the central merits of the case.
The doctrine of issue preclusion provides: When an issue of fact or law is actually litigated and determined by a valid final judgment, and the determination is essential to the judgment, the determination is conclusive in a subsequent action between the parties, whether on the same or a different claim.View Full Point of Law
Issue. The issue is whether the prior court judgment denying Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss Defendant as counsel now precludes Plaintiff from bring the current action of legal malpractice against Defendant.
Held. The court held that the issue was not precluded because the issue of whether there was an attorney-client privilege between Plaintiff and Defendant was not central to the prior case. The issue was actually litigated in the prior case (there is no requirement for an evidentiary hearing or a full trial) but it was not essential to determine whether the attorney-client privilege existed to decide the claims between Plaintiff and his former partners.
Discussion. The missing element to a finding of issue preclusion was that the issue was not essential to the prior judgment. All other elements were present.