What is Collateral Estoppel?

In America, once a legal issue has been decided, it is final. That means, that if one loses in court, he or she cannot file a court case to retry.

That is because second litigation would be considered one that is trying the identical substantive legal issue. This rule applies even if the second ligation is being tried at a different time and place.

Collateral estoppel, also known as “issue preclusion,” is a doctrine that focuses on a particular issue that has been already decided. In other words, collateral estoppel simply prevents relitigation of the same legal issue.

Some may wonder why this rule even exists. The answer is simple. Without collateral estoppel, there would be no end to lawsuits over an already-decided issue. For example, one court might decide that a crime was committed, and another one might say the defendant is innocent. Therefore, in the American judicial system, there is finality to a judge’s ruling.

What Are The Elements of Collateral Estoppel?

There are certain requirements that must be met before a successful application of the collateral estoppel doctrine.

The first requirement holds that the issues in the first and second litigation must be the same and must have been already taken to court. The second one states that the issue must have been actually litigated. Lastly, a final judgment on the issue must have been delivered.

Additionally, in many but not all cases, the identity of the parties must be the same as in the first action.

What Are The Two Types of Collateral Estoppel?

The two types of collateral estoppel are mutual and non-mutual.

The first one occurs in a situation where both parties claim collateral estoppel against the other. The second one, on the other hand, takes place when one party claims collateral estoppel against the other, but the other party does not.

Moreover, the non-mutual type is also distinguished into the defensive and offensive type. Non-mutual collateral estoppel may be claimed by either the defendant or plaintiff.

Why Is Collateral Estoppel Important?

Collateral estoppel protects defendants by ensuring that they do not get sued twice for the same issue by the same party, over the same facts or cause of action. Furthermore, it helps protect and maintain work efficiency at the courts. Without collateral estoppel, courts would have to deal with the same issues over and over again. Collateral estoppel is a way of preventing inconsistent outcomes in legal issues.

To summarize, collateral estoppel is a common law doctrine that protects parties by preventing relitigation of the same legal issue. Collateral estoppel has been effective in preventing inconsistent outcomes, and it helps improve the functioning of the American judicial system by ensuring the same issue does not appear in court multiple times.

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