Palm Beach Trust and Estates Litigation: Is a Final Order Necessary For Application of Res Judicata?
What is res judicata? What is necessary for it to be applicable? Is a final order required? What should appellate lawyers know about this doctrine? A recent Second DCA opinion, Bryan v. Fernald, discusses this doctrine.
Here, the daughter of the decedent filed a petition to determine beneficiaries after decedent’s surviving spouse did not notify decedent’s children of the administration of decedent’s estate. In her petition, the daughter stated that the children were not notified and that the surviving spouse needed to show a legal marriage license to prove that he was in fact married to the decedent at the time of her death. However, the surviving spouse argued that there had already been a judgment on this issue in a separate medical practice case. Therefore, this issue did not need to be brought up again. The trial court determined that res judicata was applicable and agreed with the surviving spouse. However, the Second DCA disagreed. Among other things, the Second DCA explained that res judicata did NOT apply in this matter because a final order IS necessary for res judicata to be applicable. Here, the order that was entered in the malpractice case was not a final order. It simply denied a motion for partial summary judgment. To read the entire case, click here.