McFADDEN, P. J., BRANCH and BETHEL, JJ.
McFadden, Presiding Judge.
and Shana Dolan filed a complaint against Air Mechanix,
LLC, and others,  asserting claims arising from the
allegedly negligent installation of air conditioning ductwork
in the Dolans' house. Auto-Owners Insurance Company,
which had issued a commercial general liability insurance
policy to Air Mechanix, was permitted to
intervene. The case was tried before a jury, which
returned a verdict in favor of the Dolans. The special
verdict form used by the jury included specific amounts
awarded for different types of damages which totaled $1
million. But in filling out the line totaling those itemized
amounts, the jury incorrectly wrote $1, 000, 000, 000 instead
of $1, 000, 000. The trial judge read the verdict in open
court, including the amounts itemized for each type of
damages, and the judge twice stated without objection that
the total award was for $1 million. The trial court
subsequently entered judgment on the verdict in the amount of
$1 million. These appeals followed. In Case No. A17A0408,
Auto-Owners challenges the trial court's denial of its
motion in limine; however, Auto-Owners has failed to show
that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the
motion. Auto-Owners also claims that the trial court erred in
submitting a special verdict form to the jury because it did
not conform to the evidence and was confusing; but neither of
these objections to the special verdict form was raised at
No. A17A0409, Air Mechanix contends that the weight of the
evidence showed that its negligence did not cause the mold in
the house; however, we do not reweigh the evidence and there
was some evidence showing causation. Air Mechanix also
contends that the trial court erred in denying its motion for
a directed verdict as to the Dolans' personal injury
claims; but the evidence did not demand such a verdict. Air
Mechanix further claims that the trial court erred in denying
its motion for a mistrial based on improper closing argument;
however, any error was harmless. Finally, contrary to Air
Mechanix's arguments, there was sufficient evidence to
support the Dolans' claim for additional living expenses.
No. A17A0410, the Dolans contend that the trial court erred
in directing a verdict on their fraud, punitive damages, and
attorney fees claims; however, the Dolans failed to prove all
the elements for such claims. The Dolans further claim that
the trial court erred in excluding any reference to Air
Mechanix's liability insurance carrier at trial; however,
the Dolans have not shown an abuse of discretion or harm from
the ruling. Finally, the Dolans claim that the special
verdict form was confusing; but they raised no objections to
the form at trial. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment
entered on the verdict.
Motion in limine.
asserts that the trial court erred in denying its motion in
limine to prohibit evidence that the Dolans suffered bodily
injury caused by anything other than exposure to mold because
such evidence was barred by the doctrines of res judicata and
collateral estoppel. The assertions are without merit.
As a preliminary matter, we note that these assertions of
error raise a question of collateral estoppel, or issue
preclusion, and not one of res judicata, or claim preclusion.
The doctrine of res judicata prevents the re-litigation of
all claims which have already been adjudicated, or
which could have been adjudicated, between identical parties
or their privies in identical causes of action. By contrast,
the related doctrine of collateral estoppel precludes the
re-adjudication of an issue that has previously been
litigated and adjudicated on the merits in another action
between the same parties or their privies. Like res judicata,
collateral estoppel requires the identity of the parties or
their privies in both actions. However, unlike res
judicata, collateral estoppel does not require identity of
the claim - so long as the issue was determined
in the previous action and there is identity of the parties,
that issue may not be re-litigated, even as part of a
Etowah Environmental Group v. Walsh, 333 Ga.App.
464, 469-470 (1) (774 S.E.2d 220) (2015) (citations and
punctuation omitted; emphasis in original) (physical
Auto-Owners relies on this court's prior opinion in
Auto-Owners' separate declaratory judgment action to
argue that res judicata barred the Dolans from presenting
evidence that their bodily injuries were caused by something
other than mold. See Dolan v. Auto Owners Ins. Co.,
supra. However, that prior case involved Auto-Owners'
declaratory judgment claims concerning exclusions from
coverage under the insurance policy it had issued to Air
Mechanix; that case did not litigate the merits of the
Dolans' negligence and other claims in the instant case.
See Dolan, supra at 606. Thus, because the prior and
current cases did not litigate identical causes of action,
the doctrine of res judicata does not apply or support the
motion in limine.
regard to collateral estoppel, the specific issue raised by
Auto-Owners' motion in limine in this case - whether the
Dolans could introduce evidence of bodily injury caused by
something other than mold - was not actually litigated and
decided in that prior declaratory judgment action.
Accordingly, the doctrine of collateral estoppel did not
prevent the introduction of such evidence in this case and
the trial court therefore did not abuse its discretion in
denying the motion in limine seeking to exclude such
evidence. See Hankla v. Jackson, 305 Ga.App. 391,
392 (1) (699 S.E.2d 610) (2010) (this court reviews a trial
court's ruling on a motion in limine for abuse of
Special verdict form.
contends that the trial court erred by submitting a special
verdict form to the jury that did not conform to the evidence
and that was confusing. However, Auto-Owners did not object
to the verdict form used by the court on these grounds.
Rather, the trial transcript shows that the day before the
case was submitted to the jury, the parties presented
proposed verdict forms, and counsel for Auto-Owners objected
to the Dolans' proposed form on the grounds that it was
complicated and that there was no evidence of damages caused
by anything other than mold in the house. The trial judge
indicated that he would look at the parties' proposed
verdict forms, prepare the court's own verdict form, and
show it to the parties the following day.
next morning, the parties reviewed the court's special
verdict form and Auto-Owners did not object to it as
confusing or not conforming to the evidence. Rather, counsel
for Auto-Owners stated that he appreciated the court
reconfiguring the parties' proposals "to take care
of the problems with the mold and non-mold claims, " and
that his only objection was to a blank for the jury to fill
in for an award of universal damages. Auto-Owners'
counsel explained, "the only objection I would have is,
to me, it seems like it's suggesting to them that they
should award some particular amount and it would be more
slanted toward the [p]laintiff than to the [d]efense."
The court did not expressly rule on that specific objection
and apparently did not change its verdict form. After closing
arguments and the jury charge, the parties again reviewed the
verdict form to be submitted to the jury and no further
objections were raised. The jury subsequently ...