León Cosgrove

Third DCA revives line of cases allowing early review—through writs of prohibition—of trial court’s res judicata and collateral estoppel decisions

By: Garrett Nemeroff

The Third DCA’s recent decision in Cozen O’Connor, PLC v. Mintz Truppman, P.A. revives a line of cases allowing parties to file writs of prohibition when a trial court denies a motion to dismiss raising collateral estoppel – but only when the prior adjudication occurred in federal court. Nos. 3D18-1976, 3D18-1975, 2020 WL 3261153 (Fla. 3d DCA June 17, 2020). Construing Mintz Truppman’s claim for violation of mediation confidentiality as an attempt to relitigate an attorney’s fees award from a prior federal case, the court held that the claim was barred by collateral estoppel. Curiously, the court found that this meant the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the case, making the extraordinary writ of prohibition appropriate. But the court did not explain why the doctrine of collateral estoppel – even when based on a prior federal judgment – deprived the trial court of jurisdiction over the case. And the line of cases cited in the opinion, including Carnival Corp. v. Middleton, 941 So. 2d 421 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006), did not provide any rationale in reaching this same conclusion over a decade ago. On top of that, if collateral estoppel were jurisdictional, it is unclear why the court remanded for dismissal with prejudice, which would be an adjudication on the merits.  Litigants should monitor this developing area of the law.