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Issue Preclusion Applied in State Court Based Upon Federal Judgment

Posted by Ted A. Schmidt | Aug 02, 2023 | 0 Comments

Quinn v. Cardenas, No. 1 CA-CV 22-0398 (App. Div. I, August 1, 2023) (J.Catlett)


Plaintiff and defendant got into an altercation after a minor traffic accident. Unbeknownst to the plaintiff, the defendant was an off-duty Phoenix Police Officer. The defendant ultimately pulled his service revolver and detained the plaintiff until on duty officers could arrive. 

Plaintiff sued the defendant in state court alleging 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (for excessive force), and three state law claims for assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendant removed the case to federal court. The three critical factual allegations to support the § 1983 claim was that the defendant “impact pushed” the plaintiff, pulled his gun announcing he was a police officer and ordered plaintiff to remain in her car until on-duty officers arrived.

The district court judge granted defendant summary judgment on the § 1983 claim finding the defendant had acted as a “reasonable police officer would act” and therefore had qualified immunity. The district court remanded the remaining claims to state court.  The Maricopa County Superior Court granted the defendant summary judgment on all claims based upon the doctrine of issue preclusion created by the federal judgment and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed.

Because, under the U.S. Constitution both the federal government and state government “wield sovereign powers” our system is one of “dual sovereignty.” As such, in considering the impact of a federal court judgment in state court the doctrine of issue preclusion rather than law of the case applies here.

There are two types of issue preclusion. 

  1. Claim preclusion—where the causes of action are identical a judgement on them precludes relitigating the same claim between the same parties;
  2. Issue preclusion—where the issues of law or fact are the same relitigating them again is barred.

A party asserting issue preclusion must prove: “(1) the issue

at stake was identical in both proceedings; (2) the issue was actually

litigated and decided in the prior proceeding; (3) there was a full and fair

opportunity to litigate the issue; and (4) the issue was necessary to decide

the merits.”

In determining whether an issue is identical in two separate proceedings the court apply Restatement (Second) of Judgments:

(1) [I]s there a substantial overlap between the evidence or

argument to be advanced in the second proceeding and that

advanced in the first? (2) does the new evidence or argument

involve the application of the same rule of law as that

involved in the prior proceeding? (3) could pretrial

preparation and discovery related to the matter presented in

the first action reasonably be expected to have embraced the

matter sought to be presented in the second? (4) how closely

related are the claims involved in the two proceedings?

Here the federal court found the defendant had qualified immunity because he acted reasonably in his official capacity to preclude the plaintiff from violating A.R.S. § 28-663(A) and A.R.S. § 13-3883(A)(2) when she attempted to leave the scene of an accident. “Both federal and state qualified immunity require an analysis of whether [defendant] violated established law or unreasonably disregarded the unlawful nature of his conduct. Because the evidence and arguments required to resolve either qualified immunity defense are nearly the same (at least in the context of excessive force), we conclude there is a substantial overlap between the issues. Further, because the three critical facts upon which the federal court relied to grant summary judgment on the § 1983 claim (1. Impact push; 2. Pulling revolver and demonstrating defendant was a police officer; and 3. Ordering plaintiff stay in her car) were essential to establish plaintiffs' assault and false imprisonment state claims, issue preclusion was properly applied here by the trial court.

About the Author

Ted A. Schmidt

Ted's early career as a trial attorney began on the other side of the fence, in the offices of a major insurance defense firm. It was there that Ted acquired the experience, the skills and the special insight into defense strategy that have served him so well in the field of personal injury law. Notable among his successful verdicts was the landmark Sparks vs. Republic National Life Insurance Company case, a $4.5 million award to Ted's client. To this day, it is the defining case for insurance bad faith, and yet it is only one of several other multi-million dollar jury judgments won by Ted during his career. He is certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a specialist in "wrongful death and bodily injury litigation".


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