Collateral Estoppel Effect Cannot Be Accorded Due to Defendant's Inability to Appeal the Interlocutory Judgement

In Morley v. Quinones, 208 AD2d 813 [1994], an earlier lawsuit had been brought by one of two plaintiffs who were injured in an occurrence. The defendants had appealed from an interlocutory judgment in the earlier suit which established fault of the respective defendants after a trial on the issue of liability only. However, at a trial on the issue of damages, which occurred while the appeals were pending, the jury determined that the plaintiff did not prove that her damages exceeded the no-fault threshold. The court therefore entered a final judgment dismissing the complaint as against all defendants. Since the defendants were no longer parties aggrieved, their appeals from the interlocutory judgment were necessarily dismissed. Subsequently, Morley, the second plaintiff, sued the same defendants. Morley sought and obtained summary judgment on the issue of liability against the defendants on the ground that the defendants were bound by the collateral estoppel effect of the interlocutory judgment in the prior action. The Appellate Division, however, reversed, determining that due to the defendants' inability to appeal the interlocutory judgment, it was not sufficiently final to be accorded collateral estoppel effect.