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Parker v. Blauvelt Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., 1999 N.Y. Int. 0057 (Apr. 29, 1999).

RES JUDICATA - COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue

Whether res judicata and collateral estoppel bar a later civil rights action when the same issues were addressed on the merits in a prior article 78 proceeding.

Disposition

Res judicata does not apply but collateral estoppel does prevent the relitigation of any of the same issues.

SUMMARY

Plaintiff was suspended and ultimately dismissed from the Blauvelt Volunteer Fire Department for insubordination after a hearing by the Town of Orangetown Town Board. He first challenged the Board's determination in a CPLR article 78 proceeding in which he joined as respondents all of the defendants in the instant action. He later filed an action claiming civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a complaint that the Appellate Division, Second Department, dismissed on res judicata and collateral estoppel grounds.

The Court of Appeals concludes that the action is not barred by res judicata but that all of the issues raised in the complaint were precluded by collateral estoppel.

In plaintiff's prior article 78 proceeding, plaintiff's section 1983 civil rights damage claims were properly dismissed by the Supreme Court as not incidental to the primary relief of reinstatement he sought. Consequently termination of that proceeding on the merits was not res judicata as to the section 1983 damage claims.

Under the doctrine of collateral estoppel or issue preclusion, however, plaintiff should not be allowed in the later action to raise any of the issues he unsuccessfully litigated in his prior article 78 proceeding.