I have a California Small Claims Court question:
I took my pet to a veterinarian clinic and saw two veterinarians that caused my pet death.
I filed a Small Claims Court lawsuit against the clinic for the vet bills. When I went to court the Small Claims Court commissioner stated before the trial that "he knew nothing about veterinary medicine and unless I brought an expert witness with me he was going to rule against me". My trail lasted only a few minutes with the commissioner asking neither myself nor the vet hospital any relevant questions about the case or even asking to hear my evidence. When the trial was over, the judge ruled against me as he stated he would.
I contacted an attorney after the first trial and asked if I could now file a lawsuit against the veterinarians who were responsible for my pets death. These veterinarians are employees of the veterinarian hospital where I took my pet The attorney I spoke to told me I could try and sue them for the vet bills but to also sue the veterinarian hospital again and in addition to the vet bills also ask for the value of my pet.
I filed a second lawsuit, this time with an expert witness, and the veterinarian hospital filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed against them as well as their two veterinarian employees stating Res Judicata as the reason. At the second trial, which was held by Zoom, the judge agreed it was Res Judicata and dismissed the case with prejudice.
I can ask that the judgement be vacated if there was a mistake in the law by the judge. So, my question is, was the judge correct or did they make a mistake in the law by applying Res Judicata to my case. Is there a loop hole or exception in Small Claims Court that would allow me to have this judgement vacated?
1 Answer from Attorneys
There was no mistake of law by the judge. You can’t file in Small Claims and lose and then try an end run around the statute by claiming that some how it is a different set of facts. You’re dealing with both claims preclusion (Res Judicata) and or issue preclusion ( collateral estoppel) Issue preclusion also prevents Re litigation of a fact. You were claiming some sort of malpractice and that facts was most likely subject to a final judgement as well. Either way you can’t re-litigate the case. This is the draw back of small claims in California. I would agree with the Small Claims Commissioner that you were trying to litigate a technical subject that you were not qualified to interpret. There are no loopholes.
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