National Amusements, Inc. v. City of Springdale

Decision Date08 August 1990
Docket NumberNo. 89-1178,89-1178
Citation558 N.E.2d 1178,53 Ohio St.3d 60
PartiesNATIONAL AMUSEMENTS, INC., Appellant, v. CITY OF SPRINGDALE, Appellee.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

Generally, a change in decisional law which might arguably reverse the outcome in a prior civil action does not bar the application of the doctrine of res judicata. Since the doctrine of res judicata serves important public and private interests, exceptions to the doctrine's application should be narrowly construed. (LaBarbera v. Batsch [1967], 10 Ohio St.2d 106, 39 O.O.2d 103, 227 N.E.2d 55; Berkey Farmers' Mut. Tel. Co. v. Sylvania Home Tel. Co. [1917], 97 Ohio St. 67, 119 N.E. 140; Michael v. American Natl. Bank [1911], 84 Ohio St. 370, 95 N.E. 905, approved and followed.)

Appellant, National Amusements, Inc., owns and operates Showcase Cinema, a multi-screen theatre located within the city of Springdale, the appellee. In 1978, the Springdale City Council imposed a three percent sales tax on cinema admissions ("the cinema tax"). Shortly thereafter, National Amusements brought an action in the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County seeking to have the cinema tax declared unconstitutional on equal protection grounds. The trial court held in the city's favor, and the court of appeals affirmed. National Amusements, Inc. v. Springdale (1981), 3 Ohio App.3d 70, 3 OBR 81, 443 N.E.2d 1016 ("National Amusements I ").

In 1983, the United States Supreme Court struck down a tax on paper and ink used in the printing of newspapers as violative of the First Amendment. Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commr. of Revenue (1983), 460 U.S. 575, 103 S.Ct. 1365, 75 L.Ed.2d 295. On the basis of that decision, National Amusements filed the instant action seeking essentially the same relief as in National Amusements I. 1 In October 1984, during the pendency of this action, the Springfield City Council imposed a three percent tax on admissions to places of entertainment other than cinemas ("the entertainment tax").

Following a trial on the merits, the court of common pleas held that the cinema tax "was discriminatorily applied to Showcase Cinema to the exclusion of all other similar businesses, violating its right to equitable taxation and putting an undue and unfair burden upon it in the exercise of its First Amendment rights" for the period between the effective date of the cinema tax and the effective date of the entertainment tax.

On appeal, the court of appeals held that National Amusements I rendered the instant case res judicata and reversed the judgment of the trial court.

This cause is before the court pursuant to the allowance of a motion to certify the record.

Strauss & Troy, Charles G. Atkins and Larry A. Temin, Cincinnati, for appellant.

David A. Caldwell, Albert H. Neman, Wood & Lamping and Kenneth J. Schneider, Law Director, Cincinnati, for appellee.

HERBERT R. BROWN, Justice.

For the reasons which follow, we find that the instant case is barred by the doctrine of res judicata and affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.

It has long been the law of Ohio that "an existing final judgment or decree between the parties to litigation is conclusive as to all claims which were or might have been litigated in a first lawsuit." (Emphasis added.) Rogers v. Whitehall (1986), 25 Ohio St.3d 67, 69, 25 OBR 89, 90, 494 N.E.2d 1387, 1388. "[W]here a party is called upon to make good his cause of action * * *, he must do so by all the proper means within his control, and if he fails in that respect * * *, he will not afterward be permitted to deny the correctness of the determination, nor to relitigate the same matters between the same parties." Covington & Cincinnati Bridge Co. v. Sargent (1875), 27 Ohio St. 233, paragraph one of the syllabus. The doctrine of res judicata "encourages reliance on judicial decisions, bars vexatious litigation, and frees the court to resolve other disputes." Brown v. Felsen (1979), 442 U.S. 127, 131, 99 S.Ct. 2205, 2209, 60 L.Ed.2d 767. "Its enforcement is essential to the maintenance of social order; for, the aid of judicial tribunals would not be invoked for the vindication of rights of person and property, if * * * conclusiveness did not attend the judgments of such tribunals * * *." Southern Pacific Rd. Co. v. United States (1897), 168 U.S. 1, 49, 18 S.Ct. 18, 27-28, 42 L.Ed. 355.

Appellant contends that the doctrine of res judicata is inapplicable because the claim in the instant case is not the same as that made in National Amusements I. We disagree.

National Amusements sought essentially the same relief in both actions. 2 The only difference between the two actions is the allegation, in the amended complaint filed in the instant case, that the cinema tax violates the First Amendment. This allegation is nothing more than an alternative ground for relief which could have been asserted in National Amusements I. The doctrine of res judicata requires a plaintiff to present every ground for relief in the first action, or be forever barred from asserting it. Rogers, supra; Anderson v. Richards (1962), 173 Ohio St. 50, 53, 18 O.O.2d 252, 254, 179 N.E.2d 918, 921; Stratford Place Corp. v. Capalino (S.D.N.Y.1983), 574 F.Supp. 52, affirmed without opinion (C.A.2, 1984), 742 F.2d 1441, certiorari denied (1984), 469 U.S. 824, 105 S.Ct. 102, 83 L.Ed.2d 47; see, also, Johnson's Island, Inc. v. Danbury Twp. Bd. of Trustees (1982), 69 Ohio St.2d 241, 245-246, 23 O.O.3d 243, 246, 431 N.E.2d 672, 675 (defendant who fails to raise a defense in the first action is barred from raising it in a later action); Univ. of New Hampshire v. April (1975), 115 N.H. 576, 580-581, 347 A.2d 446, 450-451 (claim in second action which amounted to a defense not raised in the first action barred by res judicata ). Accordingly, we reject appellant's first proposition of law.

Appellant also argues that the instant case should be exempted from the doctrine of res judicata because Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commr. of Revenue (1983), 460 U.S. 575, 103 S.Ct. 1365, 75 L.Ed.2d 295, worked "a fundamental change in the controlling law" following the court of appeals' decision in National Amusements I.

Because a strict application of res judicata might frustrate other objectives of the legal system, "a series of exceptions have evolved to accommodate what are deemed to be these more important policies. However, it is important to note that although a number of cases may speak in terms of allowing an exception as being in the 'public interest' or because it avoids 'injustice,' these generally are overstatements. * * * [E]xceptions to res judicata most commonly and properly are invoked only in specialized situations in which a specific policy is deemed to outweigh judicial economy concerns." (Footnotes omitted.) Friedenthal, Kane & Miller, Civil Procedure (1985) 656, Section 14.8. For example, habeas corpus actions are exempt from res judicata because "[c]onventional notions of finality of litigation have no place where life or liberty is at stake * * *." Sanders v. United States (1963), 373 U.S. 1, 8, 83 S.Ct. 1068, 1073, 10 L.Ed.2d 148.

Generally, a change in decisional law which might arguably reverse the outcome in a prior civil action does not bar the application of the doctrine of res judicata. LaBarbera v. Batsch (1967), 10 Ohio St.2d 106, 109-111, 39 O.O.2d 103, 105-107, 227 N.E.2d 55, 59-60; Berkey Farmers' Mut. Tel. Co. v. Sylvania Home Tel. Co. (1917), 97 Ohio St. 67, 74, 119 N.E. 140, 142; Michael v. American Natl. Bank (1911), 84 Ohio St. 370, 95 N.E. 905; see Doe v. Trumbull Cty. Children Services Bd. (1986), 28 Ohio St.3d 128, 28 OBR 225, 502 N.E.2d 605 (change in controlling decisional law does not support Civ.R. 60[B] motion for relief from judgment). "To hold otherwise would enable any unsuccessful litigant to attempt to reopen and relitigate a prior adverse final judgment simply because there has been a change in controlling case law. Such a result would undermine the stability of final judgments and, in effect, render their enforceability conditional upon there being 'no change in the law.' " Doe, supra, at 131, 28 OBR at 227, 502 N.E.2d at 608 (quoting Parks v. U.S. Life & Credit Corp. [C.A.11, 1982], 677 F.2d 838, 841).

This general rule applies to changes in constitutional law. "That the change in legal...

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