Party Waives Res Judicata Argument By Failing to Raise it in the Trial Court

In Crews v. McLing, No. 1071479, released by the Alabama Supreme Court on September 4, 2009, the defendant-appellant’s failure to advance the defense of res judicata in the trial court precluded him from raising it in the appellate court.   

The McLings sued Crews and his construction company alleging that Crews had negligently delivered and installed the mobile home that they purchased from CHI.  In a separate action filed 16 months later, the McLings sued CHI, alleging berach of the contract for the purchase of the mobile home.    

In the CHI action, the trial court granted the McLing’s motion for summary judgment and ordered CHI to refund the McLings the price that they paid for the mobile home, plus interests and costs.  Crews attempted to introduce evidence of that award in the action against it, but the trial court granted the McLings’ motion in limine and excluded it.   

On appeal, Crews argued that the judgment entered against CHI fully compensated the McLings for the problems with the mobile home and that the claims against him were barred by the doctrine of res judicata.   As a result, Crews contended that the trial court erred in not allowing him to introduce evidence relating to the judgment against CHI.  However, Crews had failed to raise  the applicability of the doctrine of res judicata in the trial court.  As a result, the Alabama Supreme Court would not consider the merits of that argument on appeal:

The record supports the McLings’ assertion that Crews never raised the issue of the applicability of the doctrine of res judicata in the trial court, and we accordingly cannot consider the merits of Crews’s argument in this regard.

The court found no error in the trial court’s exclusion of the evidence regarding the CHI judgment and affirmed the judgment entered against Crews.