“‘It is a principle of general application in Anglo-American jurisprudence that one is not bound by a judgment in personam in a litigation in which he is not designated as a party or to which he has not been made a party by service of process.'” Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 884 (2008), quoting Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32, 40 (1940). Likewise, strangers to a judgment do not generally have the standing to enforce the same. Blue Chip Stamps v. Manor Drug Stores, 421 U.S. 723, 750 (1975). These principles also find their expression in the requirement under the res judicata doctrines of claim and issue preclusion that there be identity of the parties in order for a claim to be barred or an issue closed for consideration by prior litigation. See, e.g., Heacock v. Heacock, 402 Mass. 21, 23-24, 25 (1988). These principles also reflect substantive and procedural Due Process concerns. People should have their days in court, and not be bound by others’ days in court. It is for this reason also that default judgments, Treglia v. MacDonald, 430 Mass. 237, 242 (1999), and consent decrees, New York Cent. & H.R.R. Co. v. T. Stuart & Sons, Co., 260 Mass. 242, 248-249 (1927), have no preclusive effect in subsequent litigation.
An exception to the foregoing principles that has particular significance to our practice area is in rem judgments-judgments relating to land or other property, and not people-and injunctions entered pursuant to the same. These types of final relief will bind third parties. See Restatement (First) of Judgments § 2 (“[w]here a reasonable opportunity has been afforded to litigate rights of all persons in property before a court which has jurisdiction over the property, and the court has finally determined the rights in the property, the interests of the state and of the persons concerned require that the rights in the property shall not be litigated again by anyone”). See also Dowd v. Marin, 18 Mass. App. Ct. 786, 794 (1984) (successors-in-interest may invoke res judicata with respect to in rem judgments). The Supreme Judicial Court explained the rationale for the rule in Lyon v. Bloomfield as follows:
The decree affected rights in specific land, and the successors in interest to that land are entitled to the benefit of the decree including the remedy of bringing a petition for contempt. The present plaintiffs as successors in interest would be entitled to the benefit of res judicata, and would be entitled to a new injunction restating the previously enjoined use. In principle we see no merit in a rule which would require each subsequent transferee of land which is protected by injunction from invasion by another to renew the injunction against the same defendant in order to protect his rights in the land. The party enjoined by court order from use of land should not be permitted to flout the order merely because the land has been transferred.
355 Mass. 738, 743 (1969) (citations omitted). Thus, when a real estate case goes to a judgment on the merits and a permanent injunction is entered pursuant to that judgment, successors-in-title are bound by and have the benefit of such final relief. Real estate judgments are truly final in relation to the land.
Written by Nicholas P. Shapiro, Esq. on behalf of Jeffrey T. Angley, P.C.
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