Let's return to Q. 9 of the MBE sample questions (by the way, this discussion is definitely not for my current civ pro class...yet):
9. A motorcyclist was involved in a collision with a truck. The motorcyclist sued the truck driver in state court for damage to the motorcycle. The jury returned a verdict for the truck driver, and the court entered judgment. The motorcyclist then sued the company that employed the driver and owned the truck in federal court for personal-injury damages, and the company moved to dismiss based on the state-court judgment.
If the court grants the company’s motion, what is the likely explanation?
(A) Claim preclusion (res judicata) bars the motorcyclist’s action against the company.
(B) Issue preclusion (collateral estoppel) establishes the company’s lack of negligence.
(C) The motorcyclist violated the doctrine of election of remedies.
(D) The state-court judgment is the law of the case.
(C) and (D) are obviously nonstarters. The question is whether (A) or (B) is right. Let's start with issue preclusion. The examiners are right that issue preclusion is a problem because we do not know why the jury returned a verdict for the truck driver. It may not have been because the driver was found non-negligent. Indeed it may be that the issue of the driver's negligence never came up (perhaps negligence was admitted). The only finding might have been the contributory negligence of the motorcyclist. We just don't know. For that reason, I can't see why the examiners even say, "It is true that the same negligence issue that was presented against the truck driver is being presented in the action against the company and that that issue was actually litigated in the first action—two requirements for the application of issue preclusion." We don't know that the negligence of the driver was actually litigated and decided in the first action. Indeed, we don't even know that the action against the driver was for negligence. The question doesn't even say that!