Strong v. Williams

In Strong v. Williams,[1] the supreme court held that despite pre-trial dismissal with prejudice of a landowner’s settled claims against his neighbors, res judicata and collateral estoppel do not preclude subsequent claims against a municipality on the same underlying facts.  Since 1974, John Strong has owned property in Anchorage; since the 1980s, the property has experienced significant flooding as a result of a neighbor’s access road, which the Municipality was made aware of in 1993.  In 2010, Strong sued James and Suzie Williams, two neighbors, for trespass and nuisance and sought a court order to abate the flooding.  He ultimately released the claims in exchange for compensation and a promise to upgrade the road, filing a stipulation in July 2012 dismissing all claims with prejudice.  In 2015, Strong filed another suit, this time including the Municipality of Anchorage, seeking compensatory damages and the removal of the road.  The superior court granted a subsequent motion to dismiss by the Municipality on the basis of collateral estoppel and res judicata.  The supreme court held that neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel applied because the Municipality was not in privity to the original suit and the issues at hand were not actually litigated prior to the settlement.  The court explained that in order to trigger res judicata, there must be (1) a final judgment on the merits, (2) from a court of competent jurisdiction, (3) in a dispute between the same parties about the same cause of action.  It found that the third prong was not satisfied.  The court continued explaining that in order to trigger collateral estoppel, the issue must have previously been actually litigated and determined by a valid and final judgment.  The court found that this requirement had not been met as settlement of the prior claims prevented actual litigation from occurring, and the stipulation did not explicitly preclude other litigation.  Reversing, the supreme court held that despite pre-trial dismissal with prejudice of a landowner’s settled claims against his neighbors, res judicata and collateral estoppel do not preclude subsequent claims against a municipality on the same underlying facts.

 

[1] No. S-16730, 2018 WL 6582299 (Alaska Dec. 14, 2018).

Strong v. Williams

In Strong v. Williams,[1] the supreme court held that despite pre-trial dismissal with prejudice of a landowner’s settled claims against his neighbors, res judicata and collateral estoppel do not preclude subsequent claims against a municipality on the same underlying facts.  Since 1974, John Strong has owned property in Anchorage; since the 1980s, the property has experienced significant flooding as a result of a neighbor’s access road, which the Municipality was made aware of in 1993.  In 2010, Strong sued James and Suzie Williams, two neighbors, for trespass and nuisance and sought a court order to abate the flooding.  He ultimately released the claims in exchange for compensation and a promise to upgrade the road, filing a stipulation in July 2012 dismissing all claims with prejudice.  In 2015, Strong filed another suit, this time including the Municipality of Anchorage, seeking compensatory damages and the removal of the road.  The superior court granted a subsequent motion to dismiss by the Municipality on the basis of collateral estoppel and res judicata.  The supreme court held that neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel applied because the Municipality was not in privity to the original suit and the issues at hand were not actually litigated prior to the settlement.  The court explained that in order to trigger res judicata, there must be (1) a final judgment on the merits, (2) from a court of competent jurisdiction, (3) in a dispute between the same parties about the same cause of action.  It found that the third prong was not satisfied.  The court continued explaining that in order to trigger collateral estoppel, the issue must have previously been actually litigated and determined by a valid and final judgment.  The court found that this requirement had not been met as settlement of the prior claims prevented actual litigation from occurring, and the stipulation did not explicitly preclude other litigation.  Reversing, the supreme court held that despite pre-trial dismissal with prejudice of a landowner’s settled claims against his neighbors, res judicata and collateral estoppel do not preclude subsequent claims against a municipality on the same underlying facts.

 

[1] No. S-16730, 2018 WL 6582299 (Alaska Dec. 14, 2018).