Bob, an unsuspecting auto buyer of the State of California, purchases a new motor vehicle with a balance on its new car warranty ("Cab").

Rob is the previous buyer also within the State of California.

Company is the manufacturer, retail seller, and repair facility.

Company sold Cab to Rob, and Rob returned Cab to Company for a substantially impairing nonconformity, one likely to cause death or serious injury if the vehicle is driven.

Company created an estimate about Cab; however, omitted to present or provide it to Rob. Company omitted to put the actual nonconformity Rob complained to Company about Cab into the estimate. Company entered a different job item to falsify the record and create grounds for reacquiring Cab not for a nonconformity Rob ever provided notice to Company at least once or was even aware of.

In fact, Company texted Rob implying the two had an agreement of repairs about a second nonconformity only to compel Rob to burst out he never brought Cab back for the second nonconformity or knew about one, and had sought repairs for the one she brought Cab in for. Company, buys Cab back from Rob, and sells it to Bob although Rob never authorized the buyback. Without a notice to having reacquired Cab from Rob for a nonconformity.

Rob sues Company. Bob learns about the buyback and that Company omitted to comply with its duties relating to either nonconformities, and moves to sue Company for an unbranded lemon.

Rob and Company are entered final judgment, and Bob files late though within statutes of limitations.

Will Bob be dismissed per res judicata when he files? Under what scenarios he will and he will not be? 

Will Bob get to seek punitive damages even if Rob is already awarded some? What scenarios are possible and what are likely?


2 Answers 2


Will Bob be dismissed per res judicata when he files?

No. His claim is different from Rob's. These are two separate contracts, involving different parties, and the company's torts are different in each matter. Your description reflects that only Rob's claim(s) has(have) been adjudged.

Will Bob get to seek punitive damages even if Rob is already awarded some?

Section 1974(c)(1) of the California Civil Code entitles Bob to "a civil penalty which shall not exceed two times the amount of actual damages" if Bob proves that the company's noncompliance was willful. These remedies do not depend on whether Rob was awarded damages (punitive or otherwise) as a result of his claim against the company. There is no indication in your description that Bob's suit is a class action or that he is bringing an action of behalf of others in addition to himself. Therefore, the exception in the latter statement of section 1974(c)(1) is inapplicable.

  • Thank you for the explanation, greatly appreciated! Bob proceeds individually, not as a member of a class.
    – HJay
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 23:45


Res judicata applies to the same events between the same parties. Bob v Company has a different party from Rob v Company so res judicata is inapplicable.

Of course, Bob’s case will be subject to collateral estoppel (issue estoppel outside the USA) so that matters that were decided in the previous case cannot be reagitated. So, for example, if it was found that the car was a lemon, that will be an indiputable fact in any subsequent case.

  • Thank you! The collateral estoppel information is also very helpful, thank you!
    – HJay
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 23:39
  • Is that really the word: "reagitated"? I would have thought "relitigated"? (Everything about the law I learned from TV ... so this is a real question: Law has its own technical vocabulary like other fields, so maybe it is "reagitated"?)
    – davidbak
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 22:56
  • Yes, it’s a word. No, it’s not a legal term. Something is agitated when it’s stirred up or shaken. It’s reagitated when you do that again.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 23:06

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