The current rules of the Federal courts are very open and liberal to letting parties to a claim do as much as possible in one instance of litigation. They take an open approach to these items in allowing individuals to join parties liberally, by letting parties bring all of the claims they have against a party in one suit, regardless of the subject matter, and by allowing plaintiffs to bring in claims that don't meet the requirements for a federal hearing in an interest in efficiency.
While the courts allow plaintiffs and defendants alike to do much in one suit, all of their openness goes out the window when it comes to re-litigating a claim or issue. This is because all of the items that allow parties to do whatever they want are designed to be efficient for the court. Allowing multiple chances of litigation to a party not only destroys the efficiency but also doesn't permit a potential defendant to move on from the accident that brought about litigation in the first place.
Claim preclusion is the judicial idea that once a claim has been litigated, it cannot be re-litigated. This idea hinges on how one defines the word “claim.” The broader the definition of a claim, the more preclusive it will be in courts. However, the narrower the definition of “claim,” the less efficient a court will be since it will be forced to listen to the same sets of facts multiple times. There are two major theories of the definition of “claim” that have been adopted by courts in the United States.
The first theory, the primary rights theory, defines a claim or cause of action by referencing the “primary right” at the heart of the controversy. Primary rights are the basic rights and duties imposed on individuals by the substantive law. So a primary right can be considered the right to be free from damage to a person's self. A different primary right is the right to have a contract enforced. Primary rights mirror the claims possible in torts, contracts, and a variety of other fields.
The second theory, the transactional test, is much more in line with the liberal rules of pleadings and joining parties to lawsuits. It fits in with the idea of supplemental jurisdiction in that it defines a claim as a group of operative facts that give rise to one or more rights of action. This theory forces an individual to combine all of his or her potential “primary rights” lawsuits into one big lawsuit.
As a general rule, if a claim has already been judged, that claim has been extinguished. It no longer exists and, instead, has been replaced by a judgment or verdict.
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