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Phillips v. Montoya

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

October 27, 2017

Ivan Phillips
v.
Nick Montoya

         Appeal from Shelby Circuit Court (CV-16-900804)

          MOORE, JUDGE

         Ivan Phillips appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Shelby Circuit Court ("the circuit court"), concluding that his claims against Nick Montoya were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. We affirm the circuit court's judgment.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On September 29, 2016, Phillips filed in the circuit court a complaint against Montoya, alleging claims of negligence, wantonness, breach of contract, misrepresentation, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, and slander of title ("the circuit-court action"). Phillips attached several exhibits to his complaint. On September 30, 2016, Phillips filed an amended complaint alleging those same claims against Montoya. On October 31, 2016, Montoya answered the amended complaint.

         On November 21, 2016, Montoya filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a summary judgment; Montoya argued that Phillips's claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata because, he said, those claims had been adjudicated in a previous judgment entered by the Shelby District Court ("the district court") in case no. DV-2015-900469 ("the district-court action"). Montoya attached evidentiary materials in support of his motion, which indicate that, in the district-court action, Montoya filed a complaint on or about June 23, 2015, against Phillips and his wife, April Phillips; that the Phillipses asserted counterclaims against Montoya based on negligence, wantonness, breach of contract, misrepresentation, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, and slander of title; that the Phillipses failed to appear for the trial in the district-court action; and that, on November 19, 2015, the district court entered a default judgment against the Phillipses and awarded Montoya damages in the amount of $9, 502.50, plus court costs.

         On January 17, 2017, Phillips responded to Montoya's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a summary judgment in the circuit-court action. On January 19, 2017, Montoya filed a reply to Phillips's response. On January 24, 2017, Phillips filed a supplemental response to Montoya's motion. Thereafter, on February 7, 2017, the circuit court entered a judgment dismissing Phillips's case.

         Because Montoya's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a summary judgment was based entirely on the defense of res judicata and depended on the submission of the filings from the district-court action, we conclude that the circuit court must have relied on those materials in deciding to dismiss the case. Furthermore, those materials were not attached to Phillips's complaint. Therefore, Montoya's motion should have been treated as a summary-judgment motion, and we will review the circuit court's judgment using the corresponding standard of review applicable to a summary judgment. See, e.g., Ex parte Price, [Ms. 1151041, April 14, 2017] __ So.3d __, __ (Ala. 2017); and Lloyd Noland Found., Inc. v. HealthSouth Corp., 979 So.2d 784, 792-23 (Ala. 2007).

         On March 2, 2017, Phillips filed a postjudgment motion; that motion was denied on April 11, 2017. On April 28, 2017, Phillips filed his notice of appeal to this court.[1]

Standard of Review

         "'We review this case de novo, applying the oft-stated principles governing appellate review of a trial court's grant or denial of a summary judgment motion:

         "American Liberty Ins. Co. v. AmSouth Bank, 825 So.2d 786, 790 (Ala. 2002) (quoting Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. DPF Architects, P.C., 792 So.2d 369, 372 (Ala. 2000) (citations omitted))."

General Motors Corp. v. Kilgore, 853 So.2d 171, 173 (Ala. 2002).

         Discussion

         On appeal, Phillips argues that the circuit court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Montoya on the basis of the doctrine of res judicata.

"Res judicata is a judicially created doctrine that precludes the relitigation of matters that have been adjudicated or that could have been adjudicated in the prior action. Lee L. Saad Constr. Co. v. DPF Architects, P.C., 851 So.2d 507 (Ala. 2002). The elements of res judicata are '"(1) a prior judgment on the merits, (2) rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction, (3) with substantial identity of the parties, and (4) with the same cause of action presented in both actions."' Chapman Nursing Home, Inc. v. ...

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