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News & Press: Court Cases

Unlawful Detainer / Collateral Estoppel

Tuesday, August 15, 2017  
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Ayala v. Dawson

Cal.App. 1st Dist. (A142830) 8/4/17

Plaintiff was evicted from the subject property in a previous unlawful detainer action, and brought the current action claiming that he held equitable title pursuant to an oral installment sale contract. The court explained that because an unlawful detainer action is a summary proceeding ordinarily limited to resolution of the question of possession, any judgment arising therefrom generally is given limited res judicata effect. As a general matter in such cases, collateral estoppel will only apply if the party to be bound agreed expressly or impliedly to submit an issue to prior adjudication and had a full and fair opportunity to litigate under circumstances affording due process protections.

The court held that plaintiff was barred from relitigating the equitable title issue. Plaintiff could have moved to consolidate the unlawful detainer proceeding with this action, thus requiring the court to determine whether the issues presented were so complex and so intertwined with the issue of title that the entire case should be treated as an ordinary civil action, and not as a summary proceeding. But plaintiff did not do so. Instead, he acceded to the summary and expedited procedures of unlawful detainer with respect to his claim to equitable title.


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