Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Milestones: Haung Tang v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 523 F.2d 811 (9th Cir. 1975)


Plaintiff is a mother of a decedent who was killed by her husband. The husband killed the decedent in San Diego, California, and thereafter fled to Taiwan. There, the husband was tried, convicted and incarcerated for homicide. The decedent had a life insurance policy, for which the husband was the primary beneficiary and the plaintiff mother was the alternate beneficiary. The mother sued to collect the life insurance proceeds; the husband cross-claimed, averring that because he killed his wife while being temporarily insane, he was not precluded from collecting the insurance proceeds. The district court found that the husband was precluded from litigating the insanity argument, because the husband raised the argument in the Taiwanese court and lost.

The Ninth Circuit reversed. The court found that while there may be some occasions in which issue preclusion is permissible with a foreign judgment, plaintiff failed to meet the burden of pleading and proving the identity of issues, because plaintiff provided no foundation for a conclusion that the insanity defense in Taiwan is the same as legal insanity under California law.


It's an old case, but always a good lesson to remember: because estoppel is such a powerful weapon, it always requires active pleading and establishment.

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