Randy J. Hart


This note will focus on the law of res judicata as applied by the state courts of Ohio regarding decisions handed down by Ohio's administrative agencies. While there exists a body of law on the federal level pertaining to administrative res judicata, which appears to be well settled, the Ohio Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether the decision of an administrative body will have res judicata effect in a subsequent action in an Ohio state court. This note will suggest that Ohio courts should reject administrative res judicata where its effect would be to bind the state courts by a decision rendered by a state administrative agency. The discussion will begin with an introduction to the concepts of res judicata and collateral estoppel, the main components of the doctrine of res judicata. Included in this discussion is a comparison of res judicata between federal courts and Ohio courts. The next step will be to look at how Ohio's appellate courts have dealt with the issue. Particular emphasis in this area will be given to Pullar v. Upjohn Health Care Services, Inc and Distelzweig v. Hawkes Hospital of Mt. Carmel. The procedural and philosophical aspects of administrative adjudication and state court adjudication will be discussed with an in-depth look at the similarities and differences between the two systems. By examining such factors as the underlying policies of the tribunal, standards used to make decisions, general purpose of existence, the role of stare Decisis in decisions, and the incentive to litigate, it will be suggested that administrative tribunals and courts of law do not have sufficient similarities between them to allow the latter to give res judicata effect to decisions of the former.