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The Effect Of A Judgment For Possession On Other Potential Lawsuits Between A Landlord And A Tenant

Generally, where there is a final judgment on the merits by a court having jurisdiction, that judgment is conclusive between the parties to a suit as to all matters that were litigated or that could have been litigated in that suit. In other words, you generally can’t have two bites at the proverbial apple.

How does this concept affect the entry of a judgment for possession in favor of a landlord, or a judgment in favor of a tenant dismissing an eviction action? For example, if the landlord evicts a tenant for nonpayment of rent is the landlord then precluded from suing the tenant for damages for the rent that is due? Or, if the landlord loses an eviction action on the basis that the tenancy court did not have jurisdiction because the court could not find a landlord-tenant relationship existed between the parties, is the landlord precluded from filing an action in ejectment in an attempt to remove the tenant from the space?

Fortunately, this concept, known as “res judicata,” generally does not apply to judgments from summary dispossess actions. Thus, examples of where the doctrine of res judicata does not apply after a judgment is entered in an eviction action include:

1. An action by a landlord for ejectment.
2. An action by a landlord for rent.
3. An action by a tenant for wrongful eviction.
4. An action by a tenant for return of the security deposit.
5. An action by tenant for damages.

Thus, a landlord or tenant need not fear being shut out of court on additional claims simply because either party was successful in either prosecuting an eviction action or defending one.