Res Judicata – Same Evidence Test

City of Trussville v. Personnel Board of Jefferson County, [Ms. 1200629, Mar. 18, 2022] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2022). The Court (Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Shaw, Wise, Stewart, and Mitchell, JJ., concur; Sellers and Mendheim, JJ., concur in the result; Bryan, J., dissents) affirms a summary judgment entered by the Jefferson Circuit Court dismissing the City of Trussville’s (the City) action against the Jefferson County Personnel Board (the Board) seeking a declaration that the City has the authority to create and operate its own civil-service system. A 1991 action between the parties was concluded by a settlement, providing in pertinent part that the “parties hereby agree that, as of the Effective Date specified in paragraph 8 [October 3, 1992], all classified and regular employees of Trussville shall be deemed to be under the jurisdiction and control of the Board ....” Ms. *7.

The Court notes that

The City relies upon the “same evidence” test to argue that the 1991 action and the present action do not involve the same cause of action. The “same evidence” test has been stated as follows:

“The determination of whether the cause of action is the same in two separate suits depends on whether the issues in the two actions are the same and whether the same evidence would support a recovery for the plaintiff in both suits. Dominex, Inc. v. Key, 456 So. 2d 1047, 1054 (Ala. 1984). Stated differently, the fourth element is met when the issues involved in the earlier suit comprehended all that is involved in the issues of the later suit. Adams v. Powell, 225 Ala. 300, 142 So. 537 (1932).” Dairyland Ins. Co. v. Jackson, 566 So. 2d 723, 726 (Ala. 1990).

Ms. *22.

The Court rejects this argument

Although the theories of relief in the two declaratory-judgment actions may differ – in the 1991 action, the City challenged whether the Board could assert jurisdiction over the City based solely on the 1990 federal census but, in the current action, the City challenged the jurisdiction of the Board based on the fact that part of the City’s corporate limits lie outside Jefferson County – the two declaratory-judgment actions arose out of the same dispute and presented the same rights to be determined – whether the City fell under the jurisdiction of the Board or whether the City could form its own civil-service system. The fact that both the 1991 action and the present action were based on different theories is of no consequence. See McDonald, 985 So. 2d at 921 (stating that “‘“[r]es judicata applies not only to the exact legal theories advanced in the prior case, but to all legal theories and claims arising out of the same nucleus of operative facts”’”). We further note that all the facts relevant to the theory that the City is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Board because a portion of the City’s corporate limits lies outside Jefferson County, which is the City’s theory of relief in the current action, were present and known to the City before the commencement of the 1991 action.

Ms. **30-31.

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