The Court does not feel that it can subscribe to the plaintiff's argument that the issues actually litigated in the prior New York action were issues solely of characterization and choice-of-law to which collateral estoppel cannot apply so long as the second forum is a court of a different state from the first. The plaintiff does not cite any authority in support of this argument and the proposition does not appear to be sound.
It is, indeed, unfortunate for the plaintiff that he chose to litigate the issues of breach of warranty and negligence between the parties in the forum of New York where, under its conflicts of law principles, the law of Washington, D.C. is applicable and privity of contract is necessary to sustain the action. The plaintiff's attempt at recovery in the New York action on the breach of warranty and negligence issues resulted in a dismissal on the merits for lack of privity, and the attempt at recovery for contribution on the contributing negligence issue resulted in a jury verdict against him, exonerating the defendant from any negligence contributing to the accident. Having had those issues determined adversely to him he cannot now by the present action raise the same issues by asserting a different cause of action, for the issues have been adjudicated.
It would, in the opinion of this Court, be unduly burdensome to allow a plaintiff to have a second 'bite at the apple of discord' in a second jurisdiction which might permit recovery on a breach of warranty or negligence action without the existence of privity of contract. A second suit would militate against the policies giving rise to the doctrine of res judicata and the principle of collateral estoppel and enhance the needless multiplicity of litigation.
Of what value would a judgment be if in a second action in another jurisdiction a party is permitted to relitigate the same issues previously adjudicated with the prospect that a contrary judgment might be rendered on those issues? It is, of course, a matter of common knowledge that the various states have laws which if applied to the same facts would result in contrary decisions or judgments. However, 'Full Faith and Credit' requires that a valid judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction be given full effect in another jurisdiction in a manner to render justice to the parties and avoid needless litigation.
Although it is true, as the plaintiff asserts, that what he sought in the New York action was indemnification and contribution for any damages which might be by judgment assessed against him in that action and that in the present action he seeks damages for his own personal injuries and property damage, nevertheless, he did choose to resolve by judicial determination in that third party action that same questions of breach of warranty and negligence which are presented in the present action. And even though it would appear that the proffered distinction in the nature of the right asserted by the plaintiff is the most significant difference between the prior and present action, this alone does not constitute the determining factor in stating separate causes of action as the plaintiff would have the Court hold. The proper test as to identity of causes of action is to inquire whether the same evidence that is necessary to maintain the second action would have been sufficient to support the first action.
This Court is of the opinion that the same evidence necessary to maintain the present action would have been sufficient to support the prior action, thus, indicating an identity of causes of action and an appropriate instance for the application of the doctrine of res judicata. However, regardless of whether there is an identity of causes of action and hence whether the principle of res judicata or collateral estoppel applies, the issues now sought to be litigated have once been litigated and determined between the parties before a court of competent jurisdiction, and this is sufficient under either theory to raise a bar to the plaintiff's present action. Russell v. Tenafly Bd. of Adjustment, 53 N.J.Super. 539, 148 A.2d 78 (A.D.1959); Mazzilli v. Accident & Casualty Ins. Co., etc., 26 N.J. 307, 139 A.2d 741 (1958); Cramer v. Roberts, 19 N.J.Super. 1, 87 A.2d 764 (Ch., 1952); Hudson Transit Corp. v. Antonucci, 137 N.J.L. 704, 61 A.2d 180, 4 A.L.R.2d 1374 (E. & A., 1948); U.S. v. Munsingwear, 340 U.S. 36, 71 S. Ct. 104, 95 L. Ed. 36 (1950).
In light of the foregoing, the motion for summary judgment will be granted and counsel for the defendant will prepare an appropriate order.