620 A.2d 109
(14527)Supreme Court of Connecticut
PETERS, C.J., CALLAHAN, BORDEN, BERDON and KATZ, Js.
The plaintiff sought to foreclose a mortgage on certain real property owned by the named defendant. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and denied a similar motion by the defendant bank for a determination of priorities, relying on the disposition of essentially identical motions in a separate proceeding involving the same parties. That court rendered judgment of foreclosure by sale, and the bank appealed. Held that the trial court improperly applied the doctrine of res judicata in granting the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment; the prior decision on which that court relied was not a final judgment.
Argued December 9, 1992
Decision released February 9, 1993
Action to foreclose a mortgage on certain real property owned by the named defendant, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New London, where the court, Leuba, J., granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and denied the defendant New England Savings Bank’s motion for summary judgment as to the issue of priorities between their respective mortgages on the property; thereafter, the case was tried to the court; judgment for the plaintiff ordering foreclosure by sale, and the defendant New England Savings Bank appealed. Reversed; further proceedings.
Michael D. O’Connell, for the appellant (defendant New England Savings Bank).
Thomas F. McGarry, for the appellee (plaintiff).
This is a mortgage foreclosure action in which the defendant New England Savings Bank (bank) appeals from a judgment of foreclosure by sale rendered by the trial court, Koletsky, J. The judgment of foreclosure rested on the previous resolution by the trial court, Leuba, J., of a priority dispute between two mortgagees of the property, the plaintiff, Willis F. Zieger, and the bank. The court, Leuba, J., had resolved that dispute by granting a motion for summary judgment filed by Zieger and denying a similar motion filed by the bank. The bank appealed from the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court, and we transferred the appeal to this court pursuant to Practice Book 4023 and General Statutes 51-199 (c).
At issue is the propriety of the rulings on the two motions for summary judgment regarding priorities. The bank claims that the trial court, Leuba, J., improperly applied the doctrine of res judicata in granting Zieger’s motion for summary judgment. We agree.
In its ruling, the trial court noted that this foreclosure action “involves the same parties and the same documentation as the case of New England Savings Bank v. Village Brook Plaza Limited Partnership, Docket No. 51 53 44 in the Superior Court for the Judicial District of New London at New London.” Eight months earlier, the same trial judge had, in that case, ruled on motions for summary judgment filed by Zieger and the bank that were essentially identical to the summary judgment motions in this case, and granted Zieger’s motion. That case, however, has not yet gone to final judgment.
In this case, the trial court viewed the question before it as “whether or not the issue of priorities having been previously determined is now res judicata as to the parties
herein.” The court concluded: “All parties had a full opportunity to argue this issue in the previous case. Because of that the court finds . . . the prior determination of the matter of priorities to be res judicata as to the parties involved in the Motions for Summary Judgment. Gionfriddo v. Gartenhaus Cafe, 15 Conn. App. 392
[546 A.2d 284 (1988), aff’d, 211 Conn. 67, 552 A.2d 540 (1989)]; Corey v. Avco-Lycoming Division, 163 Conn. 309, 317 [307 A.2d 155 (1972), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 1116, 93 S.Ct. 903, 34 L.Ed.2d 699 (1973)].” Accordingly, the court granted Zieger’s motion and denied the bank’s motion.
We first note that, although the court in this case took judicial notice of the file in the first case, it did not, either explicitly or implicitly, incorporate by reference its memorandum of decision in the first case. Thus, it cannot be said that in this case the court separately considered the legal issues involved and resolved them by adopting the first memorandum of decision as applicable to and dispositive of the issues involved in this case. Instead, the court rested its decision in this case solely on the doctrine of res judicata. That is clear, not only from the specific language of the trial court’s memorandum of decision, but from its citations to the Corey and Gionfriddo cases, both of which involve the doctrine of res judicata.
It is axiomatic, however, that the application of the doctrine of res judicata requires the existence of a valid final judgment. See, e.g., Beccia v. Waterbury, 192 Conn. 127, 132, 470 A.2d 1202 (1984); Wade’s Dairy, Inc. v. Fairfield, 181 Conn. 556, 559, 436 A.2d 24
(1980). This rule applies whether we view the trial court’s decision as resting on the issue preclusion aspect
of the doctrine; Scalzo v. Danbury, 224 Conn. 124, 127-28, 617 A.2d 440 (1992); or the claim preclusion aspect of the doctrine. See Corey v. Avco-Lycoming Division, supra, 317.
In this case, the previous decision upon which the trial court rested its application of the doctrine of res judicata was not final. The court, therefore, was incorrect in applying the doctrine.
The judgment is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings according to law.