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Copyright (c) 1996 Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey
Rutgers Law Review

NEW JERSEY DEVELOPMENTS: The Entire Controversy Opinions of 1995 and Attorney Malpractice: What Price Economy in New Jersey?

Summer, 1996

Rutgers Law Review

48 Rutgers L. Rev. 1273


Susan Carboni *


The entire controversy doctrine 1 is a common law procedural tool unique to New Jersey. 2 At its most dramatic, it func- tions as a magic wand for defendants, making pesky litigation disappear. 3 The doctrine is a close cousin to the principle of res judicata, though broader in scope. 4 Its aim is to settle legal controversies "in one litigation in only one court," 5 with all related claims and defenses presented in the one proceeding. 6 It is applied at the court's discretion only after a "particularized evaluation," 7 in order to "eliminate delay, prevent harassment of a party and unnecessary clogging of the judicial sys- tem, avoid wasting the time and effort of the parties, and promote fundamental fairness." 8

In essence, the doctrine seeks to avoid "a duplication of lawsuits, multiple actions each involving the identical controversy and the same witnesses" 9 in instances where a second lawsuit is in essentially "a re-run" of the first. 10 It is New Jersey's answer to the litigation explosion. 11

Early in 1994, the New Jersey Supreme Court's Civil Practice Committee proposed that the court reevaluate the entire controversy doctrine, and do away with the mandatory joinder of parties 12 which had been a part of the case law since Cogdell v. Hospital Center at Orange in 1989. 13 The Committee indicated that the Cogdell experiment had failed; that the burdens imposed by unwieldy, multi-party actions outweighed any benefits, in terms of fairness and judicial economy, ...
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