NOTE: NORTH CAROLINA ABANDONS THE MUTUALITY REQUIREMENT FOR DEFENSIVE COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL. Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1988 North Carolina Law Review
North Carolina Law Review

NOTE: NORTH CAROLINA ABANDONS THE MUTUALITY REQUIREMENT FOR DEFENSIVE COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL.

APRIL, 1988

66 N.C.L. Rev. 801

Author

STUART JOHNSON

Excerpt

The law of collateral estoppel in North Carolina has been in disarray for the past thirty years. 1 The North Carolina Supreme Court's 1986 decision in Thomas M. McInnis & Associates., Inc. v. Hall 2 has done much to clarify things, because it states unequivocally for the first time that North Carolina no longer requires a party defensively asserting collateral estoppel to have been a party or a privy to the prior action. In doing away with the mutuality requirement, the decision aligns North Carolina with the majority of jurisdictions in the country. 3 But the case raises as many questions as it answers -- questions about the fundamental nature of collateral estoppel -- and these portend a new round of litigation.

This Note will sketch the development of the doctrine of collateral estoppel in North Carolina and in other jurisdictions to show both the historical and conceptual background of McInnis. It will then discuss how McInnis changes North Carolina law, arguing that although the decision clarifies the black-letter law of mutuality, the facts of the case provide an inappropriate vehicle for such clarification. As a result, the decision in McInnis threatens to allow defendants to assert collateral estoppel defensively in situations in which the plaintiff has had little or no opportunity to litigate the issue in an earlier action.

McInnis began as an action for breach of contract between plaintiff, Thomas M. McInnis & Associates (McInnis), and Janet and Bobby Hall. The Halls hired McInnis to ...
 
 
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