Bigelow v. Old Dominion Copper Mining & Smelting Co. - 225 U.S. 111 (1912)
U.S. Supreme Court
Bigelow v. Old Dominion Copper Mining & Smelting Co., 225 U.S. 111 (1912)
Bigelow v. Old Dominion Copper Mining & Smelting Company
Argued March 5, 6, 1912
Decided May 27, 1912
225 U.S. 111
One of two joint tortfeasors was sued in the Circuit Court of the United States for New York, jurisdiction being based solely on diversity of citizenship, and the bill was dismissed; the other joint tortfeasor, who resided in Massachusetts, and was not, and could not, be made a party defendant in the New York suit, having been sued in the state court of Massachusetts, set up the New York judgment,
claiming that, under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution of the United States, the judgment dismissing a suit based on the same cause of action against one alleged to be his joint tortfeasor was a bar to the suit, and that the Massachusetts courts were bound to give to the judgment the same effect as an estoppel as against subsequent suits on the same cause of action.
Although one of two joint tortfeasors may be individually interested in the result of a suit against the other, the result is merely that of precedent, and not of res judicata, and the courts of another state are not under obligation to follow the decision.
Assistance by one of two joint tortfeasors in the defense of a suit against the other, because of interest in the decision as a judicial precedent affecting a case pending against him in another state, does not create an estoppel as to the one so assisting in the defense.
Where the cause of action against joint tortfeasors is ex delicto and several as well as joint, one of the tortfeasors not sued is not a privy to one that is sued so that a judgment dismissing the case against the latter is a bar to another suit against the latter.
Where the remedy of the plaintiff in a suit against one of two joint tortfeasors depends upon the defendant's own culpability, failure to recover in a prior suit on the same facts against the other is not a bar.
When dealing with the estoppel of a judgment, privity denotes mutual or successive relationship to the same right of property, and while there is diversity of opinion as to whether the estoppel can be expanded so as to include joint tortfeasors not parties, the sounder reason, as well as weight of authority, is that failure to recover against one is not a bar to a suit or an individual cause of action against the other.
Where the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of the United States depends entirely upon diversity of citizenship, that court administers the law of the state, and its judgment is entitled to the same sanction as would attach to a judgment of a court of that state, and is entitled in the courts of another state to the same faith and credit which would be given to a judgment of the court of the state in which the circuit court which rendered it was sitting.
Where a judgment of the court of another state is set up as a bar, the effect of that judgment in the courts of the state which rendered it is a question of fact to be determined by the court in which it is set up.
Although a judgment dismissing the bill against one of two joint tortfeasors may be a bar in the state where rendered against a suit on
the same cause of action against the other joint tortfeasor, the court of another state may, without denying full faith and credit to such judgment, determine for itself under principles of general law whether or not such judgment is a bar to suits against the other tortfeasor.
Under § 1 of Art. IV of the Constitution and § 905, Rev.Stat., the judgment of a court of one state, when sued upon or pleaded in estoppel in the courts of another state, is put upon the plane of a domestic judgment in respect to conclusiveness of the facts adjudged; otherwise it would be reexaminable as only prima facie evidence of the matter adjudged, as is the case with foreign judgments.
The full faith and credit clause is to be construed in the light of the other provisions of the Constitution, none of which it was intended to modify or override.
The courts of one state are not required to regard a conclusive any judgment of the court of another state which had no jurisdiction of the subject or the parties, and the courts of the state in which the judgment is set up has the right to inquire whether the court rendering it had jurisdiction to pronounce a judgment which would conclude the parties themselves or those claiming that the judgment was effective as an estoppel.
The privity that exists between a stockholder and the corporation that makes a judgment against the corporation conclusive as against the stockholder does not exist as between joint tortfeasors. Hancock National Bank v. Farnum, 176 U. S. 640, distinguished.
188 Mass. 315 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the question of whether the Massachusetts courts gave to a New York judgment pleaded as a bar in a Massachusetts suit the full faith and credit which is required by § 1 of Art. IV of the Constitution of the United States and § 905, Revised Statutes, are stated in the opinion.