5ASR3d266

Series: 5ASR3d | Year: () | 5ASR3d266
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ALAI`ASA FILIFILI MAILEI, Plaintiff,

 

v.

 

UIVA TE`O, LUELI TE`O, and LOGO TE`O, Defendants.

 

High

Court of American Samoa

Land

and Titles Division

 

LT

No. 13-95

 

December

14, 2001


 

 

[1] Res judicata, or claim preclusion,

applies when (1) there has been a final judgment on the merits (2) in a prior

action involving the same parties or their privies and (3) the prior action

involved the same claim.

 

[2] A judgment

will have preclusive effect if the same parties are involved or if a non-party

was in privity with a party to the previous action.

 

[3] Privity is

a term that describes the relationship between a party and a nonparty that is

deemed close enough to warrant the application of claim or issue preclusion to

the party.

 

[4] Res judicata requires that the subject

matter of the earlier case be identical to that of the case at hand.

 

[5] Res judicata prevents not only the

relitigation of matters actually determined in a previous, final case, but also

precludes the court from hearing other matters which could properly have been

raised and determined in that action, whether or not such matters were in fact

considered. 

 

[6] A person

who takes an interest in real property from one who litigated the property’s

title is in privity with him and is bound by res judicata.

 

[7] Permissive

occupation cannot create title by adverse possession.

 

Before

RICHMOND, Associate Justice, and LOGOAI, Chief Associate Judge.

 

Counsel: For

Plaintiff, Tautai A.F. Fa’alevao

 For Defendants, Afoa L.S. Lutu

 

OPINION

AND ORDER

 

Plaintiff

Alai`asa Filfili Mailei (“Alai`asa”) as

the sa`o of the Alai`asa

family, commenced this action to evict the defendants Uiva Te`o (“Uiva”), Lueli

Te`o (“Lueli”), and Logo Te`o

(“Logo”) (collectively “the Te`os”) and remove their house from certain land,

named “Toa,” in the Village of Faleniu, and to recover the rental value of the

Te`os’ occupancy of the land.

 

Alai`asa

principally argues that the present case should be decided on res judicata grounds arising from the

three consolidated cases previously decided, Moea`i v. Te`o, 8 A.S.R.2d 85 (Land

& Titles Div. 1988), motion for reconsideration den., 9 A.S.R.2d 107 (1988), aff’d

Moea’i v. A1ai`a, 12

A.S.R.2d (App. Div. 1989)[1]

(“the consolidated cases”).  The

Court agrees.

 

The

consolidated cases held that the portion of land at issue used to be under the

ownership of the Mormon Church, and is currently the Alai`asa family’s communal

land. Following this decision in the consolidated cases, Alai`asa notified

Leuli, who was then occupying the house, that the Te`os must leave the land in

accordance with the court’s decision in the consolidated cases.  Alai`asa and Leuli negotiated for purchase of

the house but failed to reach agreement. 

The Te`os have not left the land, nor have they paid a reasonable rent

to Alai`asa for their use of the land.

 

[1] Res judicata, or claim preclusion, applies when (1) there has been

a final judgment on the merits (2) in a prior action involving the same parties

or their privies and (3) the prior action involved the same claim. See

Citibank, N.A. v. Data Lease Fin. Corp., 904 F.2d 1498, 1501 (11th

Cir. 1990); 18 James Wm. Moore,

Moore’s Federal Practice ¶ 131.01 (3d ed. 1999).

 

A.  Same Parties or their Privies

 

[2-3] A judgment will have

preclusive effect if the same parties are involved or if a non-party was in

privity with a party to the previous action. 

Puailoa v. Estate of Lagafuaina Laisene, 19 A.S.R.2d 40, 46 (App.

Div. 1991).  Privity is essentially a

conclusory term that describes the relationship between a party and a nonparty

that is deemed close enough to warrant the application of claim or issue

preclusion to the party.  See Ditton v. Bowerman, 344 P.2d

919, 922 (Or. 1992).

 

Uiva was a

named party in the consolidated cases. 

Both Lueli and Logo have lived in the house from time to time.  Lueli is Uiva’s son and Logo is his daughter.  Moreover, the issue throughout the

consolidated cases has been which chief controls which lands originally leased

to the Mormon Church.  In this regard,

Siufanua represented all Siufanua people, including the Te`os.  Uiva, as a party in the consolidated cases,

and his children, Lueli and Logo, in privity with Uiva, clearly had close

enough relationships to warrant the application of the consolidated cases to

each of them.

 

B.  Subject Matter

 

[4] Res judicata requires that the subject matter of the earlier case

be identical to that of the case at hand. 

Puailoa v. Estate of

Lagafuaina Laisene, 11 A.S.R.2d

54, 76 (Land & Titles Div. 1989). 

The majority view holds that the same claim is involved if both claims

arise out of the same transaction—the claim in the prior judgment must “include

all rights of the plaintiff to remedies against the defendant with respect to

all or part of the transaction . . . out of which the action arose.”  18 Moore’s

Federal Practice § 131.20[2] (citing Restatement

(Second) of Judgments § 24 (1982)).

 

Alai`asa claims

that the house and land at issue lie within the land held in the consolidated

cases as belonging to the Alai`asa family. 

The Te`os argue that the case of Siufanua

v. Uele, 2 A.S.R. 462

(Trial Div. 1949) is more applicable in establishing ownership of the land in

question.

 

The trial on

the merits demonstrated that the location of the house at issue is not within

the area of land awarded by the court to be Siufanua land in Siufanua.  Rather,

it is within the land established as the Alai`asa family’s communal land in the

consolidated cases. The testimony of Meko Aiumu, a professional surveyor, in

conjunction with a careful consideration of the survey maps of the land in

question, clearly established the location of the house within the same survey

of land that the Court awarded to the Alai`asa family in the consolidated

cases.

 

C.  Adverse Possession

 

[5-6] The preclusion of

issues by res judicata extends not

only to matters actually determined in the consolidated cases, but also to

other matters which could properly have been raised and determined in that

action, whether or not these matters were in fact considered.  See

Mfg. Hanover Trust Co. v. The Tifaimoana, 7 A.S.R.2d 84, 86 (Trial Div. 1988); Federated Dep’t Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394, 399 (1981); 4 Am.

Jur. 2d Judgments 52

(1994).  But see In re Estate of Kope1y, 767 P.2d 1181, 1183 (Ariz. 1988) (where court in previous

action specifically declined to rule on a matter, said matter is not precluded

by res judicata). Arguments that the

prior decision was contrary to custom or violative of previous agreement were

or should have been presented to the court deciding that case and it would be

totally contrary to the principles of finality underlying the judicial process

to relitigate a matter that was already fully litigated.  Tela v. Aoelua, 12 A.S.R.2d 40, 42

(App. Div. 1989); Taulaga M. v. Patea

S., 4 A.S.R.2d 186, 187

(Land & Titles Div. 1987); Puailoa,

19 A.S.R.2d 40, 45 (a person who takes an interest in real property from one

who litigated the property’s title is in privity with him and so is bound by res judicata).

 

The Te`os claim

that if the land is found to be owned by the Alai`asa family, then they have a

right to it by means of adverse possession. 

If Uiva wished to raise the argument that he has held possession to the

land in question openly to the world and adverse to the interests of the true

owners, Uiva or those in privity with Uiva should have raised this argument in

the consolidated cases.

 

[7] Additionally, a claim

of adverse possession would fail on the merits.

Uiva, with his family, was originally permitted to occupy the house

by the Mormon Church, which previously controlled the land in question.

Permissive occupation cannot create title by adverse possession.

 

Conclusion

 

The subject of

the ownership of the land on which the house is located was the same subject

matter as in the consolidated cases. 

These cases involved the same parties and reached a final decision on

the merits.  Accordingly, res judicata applies.

 

The property

rights of the land in question have been fully litigated in multiple

proceedings.  This should be

enough—“there must be an end to litigation some day.”  Puailoa, 19 A.S.R.2d at 47 (quoting Ackermann v. United States,

340 U.S. 193, 198 (1950)).

Accordingly,

the Te`os shall vacate the premises within 30 days. Additionally, the Te`os

should pay back rent for their continued use of the land following Alai`asa’s

notice to vacate in 1985.  Alai`asa

failed, however, to put on any evidence of the rental value.  He is, nonetheless, still entitled to at

least nominal rent for the Te`os’ use of the house.  We require the Te`os to leave the house on

the land for Alai`asa’s use and consider its value to be a reasonable amount of

nominal rent in this case.

 

It is so

ordered.

 


**********

 



[1] The case title identifying the parties in and the case

number for each of the three cases are as follows: Moea`i Ui1iata v.Uiva Te`o and

Si`ufanua Aitu, LT No. 13-85; Alai`asa Filifili v. Uiva Te`o, LT

No. 42-85; Moea`i Uiliata v. Alai`a Filifili, Chiefs of Faleniu, and Tuia`ana Moi, LT No- 7-86.