Legal Question in Civil Litigation in California

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 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 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?


Asked on 6/22/21, 2:03 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Timothy McCormick Haapala, Thompson & Abern, LLP

The Judge was absolutely correct on the law. A Small Claims judgment is final as to the plaintiff. Defendants who lose sometimes can have a new trial, but not plaintiffs.

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Answered on 6/24/21, 4:54 pm


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