In Simmons v. Trans Express, the Court of Appeals recently clarified the extent to which a small claims judgment will have preclusive effect in subsequent actions. The majority and dissenting opinions in the case also addressed an issue that has confused generations of first year law students—the difference between res judicata (or claim preclusion) and collateral estoppel (or issue preclusion).
Plaintiff worked for defendant as a driver in Queens, New York for several years and was terminated in 2018. She alleges that she worked 60 to 84 hours per week without being paid for overtime as required by state and federal law. She filed a pro se complaint against defendant in the small claims part of Civil Court for nonpayment of wages. She requested the maximum jurisdictional amount of $5,000 and, after a trial, the small claims arbitrator awarded her $1,000 with an additional $20 in disbursements.