Offensive Collateral Estoppel: Reconciling the Jury Trial Right and Judicial Convenience
Parklane Hosiery Co., Inc. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322 (1979).
The interplay of collateral estoppel and the right to a jury trial involves a clash between judicial convenience and constitutional rights. Collateral estoppel has long been an effective tool in guarding against inconsistent rulings and in eliminating expensive and useless litigation. The clash between judicial convenience and the right to a jury trial occurs when a party attempts to use collateral estoppel to prevent litigation of a particular issue although the opposing party has not had an opportunity to try that issue before a jury. The underlying question is whether the procedural technique of collateral estoppel can be employed to deprive a party of his seventh amendment right to a jury trial.
The interaction between judicial convenience and the right to a jury trial was not well-defined in the evolution of common law. Traditionally, courts have favored the defensive use of collateral estoppel for the purpose of judicial economy. Defensive collateral estoppel is employed by a defendant to prevent a plaintiff from retrying issues which he has already litigated in another action. Offensive collateral estoppel occurs when a plaintiff prevents a defendant from litigating previously litigated issues. Although offensive collateral estoppel has often been criticized, a rapidly growing trend now exists allowing and even encouraging the offensive use of collateral estoppel.
In Parklane Hosiery Co., Inc. v. Shore, the Supreme Court of the United States examined whether a party may use offensive collateral estoppel to prevent the relitigation of previously resolved issues of fact, and whether such use would violate a defendant’s seventh amendment right to a jury trial. The Court concluded that the proper use of offensive collateral estoppel does not violate the defendant’s right to a jury trial. Broad discretion in determining whether to allow the use of offensive collateral estoppel in a particular case, however, was left in the hands of the trial court.
Smoot, Douglas A.
"Offensive Collateral Estoppel: Reconciling the Jury Trial Right and Judicial Convenience,"
University of Dayton Law Review: Vol. 5:
1, Article 11.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udlr/vol5/iss1/11