U.S. Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Cas. Co.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtDAVIS, Justice.
Citation169 So. 532,124 Fla. 633
Decision Date10 June 1936
PartiesUNITED STATES GYPSUM CO. v. COLUMBIA CASUALTY CO.[*]

169 So. 532

124 Fla. 633

UNITED STATES GYPSUM CO.
v.
COLUMBIA CASUALTY CO.[*]

Florida Supreme Court

June 10, 1936


En Banc.

Error to Circuit Court, Orange County; Frank A. Smith, Judge.

Suit by the United States Gypsum Company against the Columbia Casualty Company. Judgment for defendant, and plaintiff brings error.

Reversed and remanded, with directions.

ELLIS, P.J., and BROWN, J., dissenting.

COUNSEL [169 So. 533]

[124 Fla. 634] John Tilden and W. F. Anderson, both of Orlando, for plaintiff in error.

Maguire & Voorhis and M. W. Wells, all of Orlando, for defendant in error.

OPINION

DAVIS, Justice.

On January 14, 1930, the plaintiff in error, United States Gypsum Company, filed this suit against Columbia Casualty Company, the defendant in error, as surety on a construction bond. The bond was the standard form approved by the American Institute of Architects and was executed to the Right Reverend Patrick Barry, Bishop of St. Augustine Diocese, Roman Catholic Church, as obligee. The construction work to which the bond pertained was a school building for St. James Roman Catholic parish at Orlando, Fla. Under the facts alleged in plaintiff's declaration, a cause of action against the surety company was made out (see Johnson Electric Co. v. Columbia Casualty Co., 101 Fla. 186, 133 So. 850, 77 A.L.R. 1; Barry v. Columbia Casualty Co., 101 Fla. 168, 133 So. 852); so a final judgment in the surety company's favor rendered on demurrer sustained to plaintiff's declaration in this case was, in due course of appellate procedure, reversed. See United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Casualty Co., 111 Fla. 526, 149 So. 569.

When this court's mandate and opinion of reversal were lodged in the circuit court, the case was returned to the rolls for further pleading to the plaintiff's declaration; that is to say, to the declaration of plaintiff that this court had held to be good.

Thereupon the defendant below interposed a special defense in the form of pleas, the substance of which is as follows: That on November 21, 1929, suit had been theretofore brought in the circuit court on the same bond now set up in the declaration held good by the Supreme Court; [124 Fla. 635] that in due course of procedure defendant had demurred to plaintiff's declaration, which demurrer had been sustained by the circuit court; that pursuant to said demurrer sustained to plaintiff's declaration the circuit court had, on April 8, 1930, entered final judgment thereon in defendant's behalf and against plaintiff discharging defendant from any and all further liability on the bond sued on; that thereafter the trial court had refused to permit an amended declaration to be filed, and that subsequent thereto a writ of error prosecuted by plaintiff to the adverse judgment rendered on the demurrer had been dismissed because sued out too late (United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Casualty Co., 100 Fla. 1802, 132 So. 217); that in consequence of said former judgment of the circuit court rendered on the same bond now sued on in this case, the circuit court had finally and irrevocably adjudged that there was, as a matter of law, no cause of action accruing to plaintiff [169 So. 534] on said bond, and that the plaintiff and defendant being the same parties in both actions, and the bond and cause of action predicated thereon being the same in this case as in the former case, that the circuit court's judgment of April 8, 1930, holding that the declaration stated no cause of action, was res adjudicata of the present controversy, notwithstanding the opinion and judgment of the Supreme Court rendered in the present case on July 20, 1930, holding contrary to the decision and final judgment of the circuit court as to the alleged insufficiency of plaintiff's present declaration to state a cause of action in the suit now before this court on writ of error.

Demurrers to the pleas of res adjudicata were overruled, motions to strike same were denied, and final judgment thereon in favor of the surety company was rendered on a stipulation of facts that in substance established the truth of the allegations set up in the pleas of res adjudicata. The [124 Fla. 636] case now before this court on the present appeal is on writ of error to the last-mentioned finding and judgment.

It will thus be observed that the question to be decided in the present case may be posed as follows:

Where there is a single bond entered into between an owner as obligee, a construction company as principal, and a bonding company as surety, wherein the owner is to be indemnified from all costs and damages for the principal's failure to pay subcontractors under him directly, and where a subcontractor having two separate contracts with the principal covered by said bond thereupon brings two separate suits at law against the surety company bond on his several contracts, whereupon the court denies a motion to consolidate the two suits, with the ultimate result that each suit is separately decided against the subcontractor on demurrers to the several declarations, the judgment in one of the cases being reversed, and a writ of error to the final judgment in the other case being sued out but dismissed because taken out too late, can the unreversed and unreversible judgment of the circuit court in one case, wherein the writ of error was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction in the appellate court to reverse the erroneous judgment in that case, be pleaded in bar in the second case as res adjudicata sufficient in law to nullify and defeat the decision and mandate of the Supreme Court in such second case upholding the declaration in the latter case as sufficient to state a cause of action, notwithstanding the decision and judgment of the circuit court to the contrary, where the judgment and mandate of the Supreme Court has affirmatively set aside an earlier judgment of the circuit court holding the declaration to be bad, and has directed the circuit court thereupon to have such further proceedings in that cause pursuant to the Supreme Court's judgment and mandate as according to right, justice, the judgment of the [124 Fla. 637] Supreme Court, and the laws of the state of Florida ought to be had in the premises?

The doctrine of res judicata is an obvious rule of expediency and justice. As such it is a part of the legal systems of all civilized nations. The legal precept comprehended within the phrase 'res judicata' may be briefly defined as the doctrine that an existing final judgment or decree rendered upon the merits, and without fraud or collusion, by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a matter within its jurisdiction, is conclusive of the rights of the parties and of their privies, in all other actions or suits, in the same, or in any other judicial tribunal of concurrent jurisdiction, on the points and matters in issue in the first suit. Res judicata means that the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction directly rendered upon a particular issue, as plea, a bar, or as evidence, is conclusive, between the same parties, upon the same matter, when directly again brought in question in another controversy between the same litigants or their privies.

The doctrine of res judicata (nemo debet bis vexari si constet curiae quod sit pro una et eadem causa) not only puts an end to strife, but produces certainty as to individual rights and gives a dignity and respect to judicial proceedings that would otherwise be interminable so long as the litigants were possessed of means to prolong their controversies.

But the application of the doctrine res judicata is of close affinity with the equally salutary doctrines of collateral attack, inconsistent positions in legal proceedings, law of the case, and election of remedies. Each of the legal principles last mentioned may give rise to estoppels as effectually binding upon the involved litigant as the estoppel of res judicata. Thus the doctrine of the law of the case is in its essence nothing more than a special and limited application [124 Fla. 638] of the doctrine of res [169 So. 535] judicata or former adjudication. It is of special significance as applied to decisions of questions of law as distinguished from decisions on questions of fact, previously rendered in the same case.

Briefly elaborated, the doctrine 'law of the case' means that whatever is once irrevocably established as the controlling legal rule of decision between the same parties in the same case continues to be the 'law of the case,' whether correct on general principles or not, so long as the facts on which such decision was predicated continue to be the facts of the case before the court. Gee's Adm'r v. Williamson, 1 Port. (Ala.) 313, 27 Am.Dec. 628, and note; Ross v. Bank of Burlington, 1 Aikens (Vt.) 43, 15 Am.Dec. 664. Thus, where interlocutory appeals are permitted, an appeal from an interlocutory order when edcided by the appellate court may effectually so become the law of the case as to future steps in it as to altogether preclude material changes in the judicial hypothesis upon which the appellate decision was rendered. Palm Beach Estates v. Croker, 106 Fla. 617, 143 So. 792 (first two headnotes).

So, reduced to its ultimate analysis, the case now before this court presents a case of conflicting judicial estoppels. That is to say, it is a case wherein plaintiff below relying upon the 'law of the case' as decided by this court in its decision and mandate of July 30, 1933, holding its declaration to be good (United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Casualty Co., 111 Fla. 526, 149 So. 569, supra), contends that defendant's pleas of res judicata predicated upon a circuit court's unreversed contrary judgment rendered in a companion case decided between the same parties, based on exactly the same liability, pleaded in an identical form of declaration, must fall before the superior legal force and effect of the Supreme Court's...

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14 practice notes
  • Strazzulla v. Hendrick, No. 33968
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 30, 1965
    ...Family Loan Co. v. Smetal Corporation, 1936, 123 Fla. 900, 169 So. 48, 49; United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Casualty Page 3 Co., 1936, 124 Fla. 633, 169 So. 532; Haddock v. State, 1940, 141 Fla. 132, 192 So. 802; Oates v. New York Life Ins. Co., 1940, 144 Fla. 744, 198 So. 681; Butler v......
  • Bondu v. Gurvich, Nos. 81-968
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 5, 1984
    ...of action previously adjudicated is identical to the cause of action later brought. See United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Casualty Co., 124 Fla. 633, 169 So. 532 (1936); Husky Industries, Inc. v. Griffith, 422 So.2d 996 (Fla. 5th DCA 1982); Stevens v. Len-Hal Realty, Inc., 403 So.2d 507 ......
  • Billingham v. Thiele, No. 75
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • July 30, 1958
    ...judgment against the defaulting defendants. He urges on us the rule established from United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Casualty Co., 124 Fla. 633, 169 So. 532, 535, which 'Briefly elaborated, the doctrine 'law of the case' means that whatever is once irrevocably established as the contro......
  • Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, No. 51287
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 8, 1977
    ...ed. 1968), and Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 2, Comment a(3) (1971). 11 See United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Cas. Co., 124 Fla. 633, 169 So. 532 12 Id. See also note 7 above. 13 Fla.App.R. 4.61. Certification was initiated by statute which authorized Supreme Court implement......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Strazzulla v. Hendrick, No. 33968
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 30, 1965
    ...Family Loan Co. v. Smetal Corporation, 1936, 123 Fla. 900, 169 So. 48, 49; United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Casualty Page 3 Co., 1936, 124 Fla. 633, 169 So. 532; Haddock v. State, 1940, 141 Fla. 132, 192 So. 802; Oates v. New York Life Ins. Co., 1940, 144 Fla. 744, 198 So. 681; Butler v......
  • Bondu v. Gurvich, Nos. 81-968
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 5, 1984
    ...of action previously adjudicated is identical to the cause of action later brought. See United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Casualty Co., 124 Fla. 633, 169 So. 532 (1936); Husky Industries, Inc. v. Griffith, 422 So.2d 996 (Fla. 5th DCA 1982); Stevens v. Len-Hal Realty, Inc., 403 So.2d 507 ......
  • Billingham v. Thiele, No. 75
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • July 30, 1958
    ...judgment against the defaulting defendants. He urges on us the rule established from United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Casualty Co., 124 Fla. 633, 169 So. 532, 535, which 'Briefly elaborated, the doctrine 'law of the case' means that whatever is once irrevocably established as the contro......
  • Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shevin, No. 51287
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 8, 1977
    ...ed. 1968), and Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 2, Comment a(3) (1971). 11 See United States Gypsum Co. v. Columbia Cas. Co., 124 Fla. 633, 169 So. 532 12 Id. See also note 7 above. 13 Fla.App.R. 4.61. Certification was initiated by statute which authorized Supreme Court implement......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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