needed to establish Crosley and Kubeja's defense in the earlier action are identical to those necessary in the present action to establish the controlling issue of whether or not the feed was defective. In both actions, a determination of whether the feed sold by Agway was defective is absolutely necessary to a final decision.
Defendants have provided the court with the affidavit of District Justice Mary Jane Fuller who indicates that plaintiffs Crosley and Kubeja appeared before her, and asserted the defense that the hog feed sold and delivered by Agway, Inc. was unmerchantable and unfit for their hogs based on the same allegations that appear in Paragraphs 3 through 6 of the Complaint filed in the present action against Agway. District Justice Fuller further indicates that, based on all the evidence presented, and after specific consideration of Crosley and Kubeja's defense, she entered judgment in favor of Agway, Inc. for the full amount claimed. While plaintiffs attach an affidavit of their own to their brief, we do not find the bare assertions, arguments and conclusions contained therein sufficient to raise a factual dispute as to whether or not they defended the prior action by claiming that the hog feed was defective. See Maldonado v. Ramirez, 757 F.2d 48, 50-51 (3d Cir. 1985); Ness v. Marshall, 660 F.2d 517 (3d Cir. 1981). An appeal from the District Justice's decision would provide a de novo opportunity for plaintiffs to assert their defense. The fact that plaintiffs failed to perfect their appeal, however, rendered the District Justice's decision binding.
We find that the District Justice, having considered plaintiffs' defense, necessarily had to have rejected it in order to find in favor of Agway for the full amount. Had the District Justice accepted that some of the feed was bad, an adjustment to the amount due and owing would have been in order. See, e.g. National Container Corp. of Pennsylvania v. Regal Corrugated Box Co., 383 Pa. 499, 119 A.2d 270 (1956). We do not find plaintiffs' argument regarding the insufficiency of their defense in the prior action convincing.
Neither do we agree with plaintiff's argument that they were denied a full and fair opportunity to be heard. They did appear and their defense was heard by the District Justice and necessarily rejected. Improper preparation and/or failure to perfect an appeal are not circumstances that can support a finding that plaintiffs were denied the opportunity to be heard. Neither is the fact that the District Justice did not hear the counterclaim, since the defense of bad feed was heard. Had plaintiffs taken an appeal, they would have been able to introduce any relevant, competent evidence they had which tended to show that the feed was bad.
For all of these reasons, we find that plaintiffs are barred under the doctrine of collateral estoppel from relitigating in this court an issue of fact which had been earlier determined. Since we must accept the fact that plaintiffs cannot prove in this action that the feed was defective, we must enter judgment in favor of defendant.
An appropriate order will issue.
NOW, this 31st day of March, 1987, in accordance with the accompanying opinion, IT IS ORDERED that defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and judgment is entered in favor of defendant and against plaintiffs in this action, ending all further proceedings.
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