Civil Procedure-Judgements-Mutuauty as Requirement for Assertion of Collateral Estoppel Against Claimant Who Was Claimee in Prior Action

Plaintiff corporations, the sole shareholder of which was their president, sued defendant insurers to recover for the alleged theft of the corporations’ furs. In an earlier criminal action, the president (conceded by the corporations to be their mere alter ego for purposes of res judicata) had been convicted of attempted grand theft, conspiracy to commit grand theft, and the filing of fraudulent insurance claims for loss of the same furs; it was there determined that the president had staged the theft of the furs. In plaintiffs’ civil action, the superior court rejected defendants’ plea of collateral estoppel as to the non-occurrence of an actual theft, but, after verdict for plaintiffs, granted defendants a new trial. On appeal, held, reversed and entry of judgment for defendants directed. Even in the absence of mutuality of estoppel, a claimant which was claimee in a prior action may be collaterally estopped to assert the existence of a fact vital to its cause of action in a second suit if the non-existence of that fact was adjudicated in the prior action. Teitelbaum Furs, Inc. v. Dominion Ins. Co., 58 Cal. 2d 601, 375 P.2d 439 (1962).