This is an important issue in legal malpractice cases. A lawyer represents a client in litigation. If the lawyer is granted leave to withdraw from that matter by the court, does that decision bar a legal malpractice claim by the client? The Washington Court of Appeals held that the withdrawal, even where approved by a court, does not collaterally estop a legal malpractice claim.
Generally, a litigant must establish four things to collaterally estop the other party from litigating an issue: (1) the identical issue was decided, (2) there was a final judgment on the merits, (3) the party against whom the doctrine is asserted must have been a party to the earlier proceeding, and (4) application of collateral estoppel will not work an injustice against the estopped party.
The court explained that two of the four factors required to establish collateral estoppel were not present: