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U.S. Supreme Court

Federated Department Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394 (1981)

Federated Department Stores, Inc. v. Moitie

No. 79-1517

Argued March 30, 1981

Decided June 15, 1981

452 U.S. 394


Seven private antitrust actions (including separate actions by each of the respondents) were brought by plaintiffs seeking to represent classes of retail purchasers against petitioners, owners of various department stores, for alleged price fixing. The actions were consolidated in Federal District Court, which dismissed them for failure to allege an "injury" to the plaintiffs' "business or property" within the meaning of the Clayton Act. Plaintiffs in five of the actions appealed, but respondents chose instead to refile their two actions in state court, making allegations similar to those made in the prior complaints. Petitioners removed these new actions to the District Court, which dismissed them under the doctrine of res judicata, and respondents appealed. Because of this Court's intervening decision in Reiter v. Sonotone Corp., 442 U. S. 330, the Court of Appeals thereafter reversed and remanded the five cases which had been initially decided with respondents' first actions, and later reversed the District Court's dismissal of respondents' subsequent actions. The Court of Appeals held that, because respondents' position was "closely interwoven" with that of the successfully appealing parties, the doctrine of res judicata must give way to "public policy" and "simple justice."

Held: Res judicata bars relitigation of the unappealed adverse judgments against respondents as to their federal law claims. The res judicata consequences of a final, unappealed judgment on the merits are not altered by the fact that the judgment may have been wrong or rested on a legal principle subsequently overruled in another case. There is no general equitable doctrine which countenances an exception to the finality of a party's failure to appeal merely because his rights are "closely interwoven" with those of another party who successfully appeals. Cf. Reed v. Allen, 286 U. S. 191. Nor is there any principle of law or equity which sanctions rejection of the salutary principle of res judicata on the basis of "simple justice" or "public policy."

"[The] doctrine of res judicata is not a mere matter of practice or procedure. . . . It is a rule of fundamental and substantial justice, 'of public policy and of private peace,' which should be cordially regarded

Page 452 U. S. 395

and enforced by the courts. . . ."

Hart Steel Co. v. Railroad Supply Co., 244 U. S. 294, 244 U. S. 299. Pp. 452 U. S. 398-402.

611 F.2d 1267, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, WHITE, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 452 U. S. 402. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 452 U. S. 404.

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