What is res Judicata?

It is essential to avoid wasting judicial resources by having litigants bring redundant and duplicated proceedings to court. The “res judicata” is one of several legal doctrines that aim to preserve this vital aspect.

This doctrine is meant to ensure that judgments and an idea are intended to provide the finality of judgments and conserve judicial resources. In addition, it is not generally in the public’s best interests to litigate a matter already adjudicated.

The conventional wisdom is that one court case should be sufficient for litigants to present their claims or defend themselves. It is essential to do this as the volume of judicial work in recent years has increased.

What are the three components of res judicata?

Res judicata has three elements: re-litigation, the exact cause of action, and the same or closely related parties.


Res judicata prohibits a party from bringing a lawsuit if a previous case has reached a decision. The doctrine of re-litigation applies to any new lawsuit, not only the court that rendered an earlier judgment. This is the simplest form of res-judicata.

The exact cause of action

The same is true for res-judicata, which prevents the party from bringing a claim or cause against a defendant after a judgment has been rendered. The term “claim” is a legal demand for compensation. A “cause of action” is the collection of elements that allows for a legal remedy.

The same or closely related parties

It is easier to determine if the new lawsuit involves those same individuals if they are individual parties. The principle of res-judicata may also prevent litigation by parties “in privity” with the party involved in the original lawsuit. Anyone “acting as an agent” for the original plaintiff or any subsidiary, such as a corporation plaintiff, can be included. The same principle also applies to defendants.

Res judicata vs. collateral estoppel

The doctrine as a whole can be divided into two major components. First, there is the res-judicata or “claim preclusion” and second, “collateral estoppel,” also known by the name issue preclusion.

Res judicata prevents a second lawsuit on a matter litigated previously and causes action/claims arising from the same subject.

In other words, collateral estoppel can prevent re-litigating a “certain issue” previously settled in judicial proceedings. In practice, collateral estoppel is the principle behind protections against double jeopardy for criminal defendants. As established in Benton v. Maryland, this protection is confirmed that res-judicata applies not only to cases adjudicated based on the merits (the facts and evidence in a case) but also those adjudicated based on procedural grounds.

In 2015, Richard Sowinski sued the California Air Resources Board for using his patent to implement one of its programs. The court dismissed the lawsuit because Sowinski needed to respond to motions by the deadline.

Sowinski sued again in 2018 and sought damages for infringement based on the 2015 decision. He claimed that res-judicata did not apply because a previous suit had been decided on procedural grounds rather than the merits. The U.S. Court of Appeals Federal Circuit affirmed that the lower court’s ruling applied res judicata regardless, as the cases were identical.

What lawyers need to know about the res judicata doctrine in court

In general, the value of res-judicata is its ability to preserve time and resources. This is a law that makes sense logically and intuitively. When you remove necessary safeguards against frivolity and waste, the burdens on the court become obvious.

The phrase “If you fail at first, try again” may be a good idea for young athletes and struggling artists, but it’s not so great when applied to lawyers, judges, plaintiffs, and defendants. We see this doctrine being used in our court system for these reasons.

See our coverage of the increasingly used.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *