An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA 03-1006
                                          &nb sp; 
                                          &nb sp; 
Filed: 15 June 2004


v .                         Watauga County
                            No. 02 CVD 607

    Appeal by plaintiff from order entered 3 March 2003 by Judge Bill Leavell in Watauga County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 22 April 2004.

    Gailor, Wallis & Associates, PLLC, by Kimberly A. Wallis, and Jaime H. Davis, for plaintiff-appellant.

    Eggers, Eggers, Eggers, & Eggers, by Stacy C. Eggers, IV, for defendant-appellants.

    LEVINSON, Judge.

    Plaintiff (Mary Sue Aldridge) appeals from an order dismissing with prejudice her claim for money damages to rental property. We affirm.
    On 29 April 2002 plaintiff filed a summary ejectment proceeding in small claims court, captioned 02 CVM 194, against defendants. Utilizing a form denoted AOC-CVM-201 as her complaint, plaintiff alleged that she had leased to defendants a property in Boone, North Carolina, pursuant to a written lease. Plaintiff alleged that defendants had failed to pay rent, and sought (1) immediate possession of the subject property, (2) rent arrearagesof $700.00, and (3) $2,330.00 in damages to the property. In the space for “description of any property damage” plaintiff wrote: “cut down 2 trees; ruined oven; ruined carpet (dogs); installed heater; stopped up ditch; eroded drive; personal property; house dirty; dog impact; rotting skylight.”
    A hearing on plaintiff's complaint was held before Watauga County Magistrate Chappell, who entered judgment on 9 May 2002. The magistrate ordered that “plaintiff recover rent of the defendant(s) at the rate listed below, plus damages in the amount indicated.” Plaintiff was awarded $750.00 for rent in arrears and nothing on her claim for other damages, for a total judgment in the amount of $750.00. In the judgment, Magistrate Chappell also noted that defendants had already vacated the residence. Neither party appealed from this judgment.
    On 19 August 2002 plaintiff filed a second action in small claims court, captioned 02 CVM 422, against the same defendants. This action was initiated by a Complaint for Money Owed for “cleaning and damage repair” to the same rental property that was the subject of plaintiff's previous summary ejectment action. Utilizing a form denoted AOC-CVM-200 as her complaint, plaintiff sought $3,978.61 for damages, attaching a list of expenses allegedly incurred as a result of defendants' damage to the property. The list essentially detailed costs associated with the same or similar damages as those she alleged in her earlier action. On 19 September 2002 Watauga County Magistrate Taylor entered anorder concluding that plaintiff had not proven the allegations in her complaint.
    Plaintiff appealed to district court, seeking a trial de novo. On 28 October 2002 defendants filed a motion for attorney's fees pursuant to N.C.R. Civ. P. Rule 11, alleging that plaintiff's second suit against defendants was filed “solely for the purpose of harassing and inconveniencing the Defendants[.]” The motion also alleged that plaintiff's suit was barred by the doctrine of res judicata as plaintiff's claims were the same as those brought in her first action. Plaintiff's appeal to district court was referred to arbitration. On 27 November 2002 the arbitrator dismissed plaintiff's action on the grounds that it was barred by res judicata.
    Plaintiff timely requested a trial de novo of the arbitrator's decision before the district court. On 27 December 2002 plaintiff filed a separate motion under N.C.R. Civ. P. Rule 60(b) seeking to set aside the judgment entered in her summary ejectment action, 02 CVM 194. In support of this motion, plaintiff attached an affidavit averring that at the summary ejectment hearing Magistrate Chappel had told her to “bring another action for damages when [she] had receipts.”
    On 19 February 2003 District Court Judge Bill Leavell held a hearing on (1) plaintiff's Rule 60(b) motion to set aside the judgment entered in the summary ejectment action, and (2) plaintiff's appeal from the arbitrator's dismissal of her secondaction for money damages to the rental property (designated 02 CVD 607 in the district court).
    On 3 March 2003 the trial court entered an order in 02 CVM 194, denying plaintiff's motion under Rule 60 to set aside the judgment in the summary ejectment action. Plaintiff did not take appeal from this order. On the same day, the trial court also entered an order in 02 CVD 607, granting defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claim for damage to rental property. The court's findings included, in relevant part, the following:
    3.    On April 29, 2002, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint in Summary Ejectment against the Defendants, 02 CVM 194, alleging non-payment of rent and property damage, in the amount of $3,030.00.
    . . . .

    5.    That on May 9, 2002, Magistrate Chappell found for the Plaintiff in the amount of $750.00.

    6.    That no appeal was filed . . . within the ten days allowed for appeal to District Court.

    7.     . . . Plaintiff filed this action in magistrate's court, being 02 CVM 422, as a claim for money owed for damage to rental property.
    . . . .

    9.    That the claims made in this action arise from the same facts and circumstances as the claims made in 02 CVM 194.

    10.    That the claim of damages made in this action is substantially similar to the claims made in 02 CVM 194.

The court concluded that “the claims made in this action are barred by res judicata” and ordered plaintiff's complaint for money owed dismissed with prejudice. From this order, plaintiff appeals.

    Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred by dismissing her claim for damage to rental property on the basis of res judicata.
        The doctrine of res judicata was developed by the courts to protect “litigants from the burden of relitigating previously decided matters and promoting judicial economy by preventing needless litigation.” Under this doctrine, “a final judgment on the merits in a prior action will prevent a second suit based on the same cause of action between the same parties or those in privity with them.”

Clancy v. Onslow Cty., 151 N.C. App. 269, 271, 564 S.E.2d 920, 922- 23 (2002) (quoting Bockweg v. Anderson, 333 N.C. 486, 491, 428 S.E.2d 157, 161 (1993), and Thomas M. McInnis & Assoc., Inc. v. Hall, 318 N.C. 421, 428, 349 S.E.2d 552, 556 (1986)). “The doctrine of res judicata treats a final judgment as the full measure of relief to be accorded between the same parties on the same claim. To apply the doctrine, there must be a final judgment on the merits in another suit with an identity of issues and parties in the two cases.” Batch v. Town of Chapel Hill, 326 N.C. 1, 14, 387 S.E.2d 655, 664 (1990) (citing State ex rel. Utilities Comm. v. Public Staff, 322 N.C. 689, 370 S.E.2d 567 (1988)).
    In the instant case, it is uncontroverted that the same parties were named in both lawsuits. It is also undisputed that in both cases plaintiff sought compensation for damages to the same property by the same defendants. Nonetheless, plaintiff contends that the doctrine of res judicata is inapplicable. We disagree.
    Plaintiff argues that the judgment entered by the magistrate in her summary ejectment case, 02 CVM 194, was not a judgment onthe issue of damages because the order “fails to make any findings of fact or conclusions of law regarding the issue of damage to the leased property.” However, challenges to the amount of the award or the adequacy of the magistrate's findings of fact and conclusions of law must be brought by direct appeal to district court. See N.C.G.S. § 7A-229 (2003).
    Defendants argue that Chrisalis Properties, Inc. v. Separate Quarters, Inc., 101 N.C. App. 81, 398 S.E.2d 628 (1990), is controlling authority in the case before us. In Chrisalis, as in the instant case, the plaintiff filed a summary ejectment action seeking immediate possession of the property, rent owed, and damages. As in the instant case, the magistrate awarded plaintiff a judgment for one claim (for damages in Chrisalis), and left the other space blank (for rent in Chrisalis). The plaintiff subsequently filed a second action seeking compensation for rent monies, the item that was not awarded in the summary ejectment action. This Court held:
        [H]aving claimed both past rent and damages in the summary ejectment proceeding, plaintiff agreed to limit its recovery to the amount which the magistrate was authorized to award and, therefore, the judgment in the summary ejectment proceeding precludes the present breach of contract action for past-due rents and damages under the lease. . . . Although G.S. 42-28 does not explicitly state that assertion of a claim for damages and past-due rents in the summary ejectment proceeding will bar a separate action for that claim, the necessary implication of the language “but if he omits to make such a claim, he shall not be prejudiced thereby in any other action for their recovery” is that if the plaintiff does make such claims in the summary ejectment proceeding he shall be prejudiced in anotheraction whereby he attempts to relitigate these claims.

Id. at 84-85, 86, 398 S.E.2d at 631, 632. We find Chrisalis functionally indistinguishable from the instant case, and conclude that it dictates dismissal of plaintiff's complaint on grounds of res judicata.
    Plaintiff also argues that res judicata is inapplicable on the grounds that she was misled by the magistrate in 02 CVM 194 into believing that she could bring a later action for damages. Plaintiff's allegation in this regard may have more relevance to her Rule 60(b) motion which sought an order setting aside the summary ejectment judgment in 02 CVM 194. As plaintiff did not appeal the denial of the Rule 60 motion, these assertions are not before us.
    Plaintiff argues next that defendants were barred from raising the defense of res judicata in district court because they failed to file an answer in small claims court asserting this defense. However, under N.C.G.S. § 7A-220 (2003), “[t]here are no required pleadings in assigned small claim actions other than the complaint.” Thus, defendants were not required to file a pleading that asserted the defense of res judicata in small claims court to preserve the issue for the district court.
    We conclude that the trial court did not err by dismissing plaintiff's action based on the doctrine of res judicata.
    Judges MCCULLOUGH and HUDSON concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

*** Converted from WordPerfect ***