Can a patient file another suit in civil court after losing in small claims court?

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Can a patient file another suit in civil court after losing in small claims court?

A patient accused her dentist of malpractice said he didn’t use the materials she wanted for crowns/implants, didn’t perform procedures correctly, etc. She tried first to file a complaint with the Dental Board, they found no wrongdoing. She then tried filing a lawsuit, three times with 3 different

attorneys but, after they saw the evidence, they each dropped the case. She then took him to small claims court where the judge had an opportunity to look at all of the dentist’s records which included her signed authorizations. Evidence showed she received exactly what she had accepted and signed for, she was not awarded anything. She subsequently sent several letters to the dentist, threatening a lawsuit if he didn’t settle

Asked on November 14, 2017 under Malpractice Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

A party may NOT keep relitigating the same issues after they have been decided by a court; a decision in one court (e.g. small claims court) is binding on other courts. The dentist (or his attorney; and when confronted with a $600k suit, even a frivolous one, you should definitely hire an attorney) should be able to get this case dismissed by a motion to dismiss based on "res judicata" and "collateral estoppel"--those are the legal doctrines preventing suing again after a court decision. The dentist could also seek attorneys fees from her for "frivolous litigation" and/or countersue for "abuse of process," and may wish to also seek a protective or restraining order that she not contact the dentist offer in any way again.
The important thing is, the dentist MUST take action to get the case dismissed: the court does not look into whether the matter was previously adjudicated itself, without a party bringing to the court's attention in the right way.


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