The Business Council of New York State opposes the passage of A.7757-A (Heastie) / S.5754 (Nozzolio). This bill would reverse the recent Court of Appeals decision in Auqui v. Seven Thirty One Limited Partnership, which clarified the usage of "collateral estoppel" on a Workers Comp Board proceeding's findings of fact in the context of civil suits on the same set of facts.
The age-old doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents a party from re-litigating an issue in a subsequent proceeding because that issue has been previously determined in a prior proceeding. Logically, the re-argument of an identical issue of fact would be both a waste and abuse of judicial resources and would cause prejudice to one party or another.
This bill ignores that in instances of identical issues of pure fact, the party litigating the issue has already had a full and fair opportunity to contest it (they were represented by counsel, submitted medical reports, presented expert testimony, and cross-examined the defendants' experts). In an extremely over-burdened civil court system, collateral estoppel disallows the waste of time and resources by eliminating the cost of expensive protracted litigation on all parties. Importantly, the Auqui decision in no way jeopardizes a party's right to re-litigate legal conclusions and conclusions of mixed law and fact.
Under current law, the doctrine of collateral estoppel is applicable to determinations of quasi-judicial administrative agencies such as the Workers' Compensation Board. Any change to the current law would do nothing to enhance a plaintiff's full and fair opportunity to present a case, it would only aid in creating evermore protracted litigation and costs for New York employers and citizens alike.
For these reasons, The Business Council respectfully opposes the passage of A.7757-A / S.5754.