Bernhard v. Bank of America case brief
1942 California Supreme
Facts: Sather, an elderly woman, lives with the Cook’s, because of her failing health she allowed Cook’s and Zeiler to make drafts jointly against her commercial account in National Bank. On Aug 24 1933, Cook opened a commercial account in a different national bank in name of Slather by Cook and a number of checks drawn by Cook and Zeiler on Sather’s account was deposited into the other account.
Sather then transferred the rest of her money to the other bank in the name of Cook and Cook then took all of that money in the other bank and deposited money in his own account. Sather dies and Cook is executor and proceeded with admin. After several years he resigned but no mention of the money transferred was made and a suit was filed against the account. Court said that it was a gift to cook during her lifetime and so dismissed any objections.
Afterwards, Bernhard was appointed adminstratrix with will annexed and sued Bank of America, the successor to the second bank to recover the money deposited because bank was indebted to this estate since Sather never authorized withdrawal. Court said it was res judicata because of finding of probate court and defendant won. Gets appealed, plaintiff says res judicata does not apply since defendant was not a party in first action
Reasoning: A party or privities may take advantage of former judgment and a party is people who are directly interested in the subject matter and had a right to make defense or to control proceeding and to appeal. A privity is one who acquired an interest in subject matter affected by judgment as by inheritance or other ways. Estoppel is mutual if the one taking advantage would have been bound if it was against him.
Assertion of a plea of res judicata against a party not bound if the party was not bound by earlier litigation. However the party asserting it does not need to have been a party in a suit, only the people that the defense is directed against must have been a party. Reason being it is unfair to permit one who had his day in court to reopen issues by merely switching adversaries.
Three questions – 1. Was issue decided in prior adjudication identical with one presented here? 2. Was there a final judgment on merits? 3. Was party against whom the plea is asserted a party to prior adjudication?
Affirmed, no recovery of funds