Appellate Review Foreclosed by Internal Inconsistencies in Judgment

""Effective appellate review is not possible where there is ‘some inconsistency’ in the trial court’s judgment."  The Alabama Supreme Court could not effectively review the judgment in Rothfeder v. Kaufman Gilpin McKenzie Thomas Weiss, P.C., Nos. 1090639, 1090671, 1090723, 1090724 (Ala. Jan. 14, 2011), because it could not decipher from the record what the trial court intended when it entered judgment.  The Court remanded the case to the trial court for clarification.  

No Rule 54(b) Certification Where Adjudicated and Pending Claims Are “Intertwined”

 In two separate cases, the Court of Civil Appeals dismissed Rule 54(b) appeals from partial summary judgments. Certification under Rule 54(b) was improper in both cases because the appealed claims were too closely “intertwined” with claims that remained pending. Holman v. Sims, No. 2080809 (Ala. Civ. App. Jul. 16, 2010); Marshall Auto Painting & Collision, Inc. v. Peach Auto Painting & Collision, Inc., No. 2090090 (Ala. Civ. App. Jul. 16, 2010).

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Emailed and Oral Orders Not Properly “Rendered”– Pending Contempt Motions Make Judgment Nonfinal

 A divorce case prompted the Court of Civil Appeals to discuss several points about how a judgment is properly “rendered,” and when a judgment is final for purposes of supporting an appeal. Meek v. Meek, No. 2090026 (Ala. Civ. App. Jul. 16, 2010). Ultimately, because the trial court had not disposed of contempt motions, the appellate court held that it lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal.

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Court Dismisses Appeal from Non-Final Custody Decision

The Court of Civil Appeals was without jurisdiction to review a custody decision in J.M.M. v. J.C., 2090172 (Ala. Civ. App. May 7, 2010), because the trial court had not resolved the issue of child support, making the judgment non-final.  "Generally, an appeal will lie only from a final judgment, and if there is not a final judgment then this court is without jurisdiction to hear the appeal . . . ‘A judgment is not final if it fails to completely adjudicate all issues between the parties.’"  To be final, custody decisions must include a determination of the parties’ child support obligations. 

 

Order Following Second of Thirteen Trials in Single Action Was Not Final for Appeal

New Acton Coal Mining Company, Inc. v. Woods et al., No. 1081092 (Ala. April 9, 2010), illuminates the procedural distinction, for purposes of appeal, between claims separated for trial under ARCP 42(b) and claims severed for separate trials under ARCP 21.  Pursuant to Rule 42(b), the trial court in Woods ordered thirteen trials of the 26 plaintiffs’ claims against the defendant.  Six plaintiffs moved for a new trial at the conclusion of the second of thirteen trials, arguing that the damages awards in their favor were inadequate.  The Alabama Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ appeal from the order denying their new trial motion because the plaintiffs did not appeal from a final judgment.       

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Court Infers Final Judgment on Counterclaim in Ore Tenus Proceeding

Ordinarily, an appellate court lacks jurisdiction if the order from which a party appeals is not a final order.  In Kennedy v. Boles Investment, Inc., No.1080607 (Ala. March 12, 2010), the Alabama Supreme Court found that under the unusual circumstances of that ore tenus proceeding, the Court had jurisdiction over the appeal even though the trial court did not expressly dispose of all of the claims and counterclaims in the order at issue.

 

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Mandamus Treated As Appeal of Final Workers’ Compensation Judgment — Court Notes “Tension” In Precedent And Follows “Emerging” Rule

The Court of Civil Appeals treated a mandamus petition as an appeal from a “final judgment” in this workers’ compensation suit. The court recognized that this “emerging” practice of treating certain workers’ compensation decisions as final and appealable is “in tension” with some existing precedent. Ultimately, the appellate court reversed the lower court for failing to include findings of fact and conclusions of law in its decision. Belcher-Robinson Foundry, LLC v. Narr, No. 2080928 (Ala. Civ. App. Jan. 29, 2010).

The trial court entered a decision ruling that the plaintiff employee had been injured on the job, that he was temporarily totally disabled, and that his employer was consequently responsible for medical payments under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. Within the time allowed for filing an appeal, the employer challenged this decision by petitioning the Court of Civil Appeals for a writ of mandamus.

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Dependency Adjudications Constitute Final Appealable Judgments

In M.H. v. W., No. 2080693 (Ala. Civ. App. Jan. 15, 2010), the Court of Civil Appeals reviewed the conditions under which a party may appeal from a dependency adjudication.  Quoting P.P. v. Limestone County Dep’t of Human Res., No. 2080544 (Ala. Civ. App. July 2,2009), the Court explained:  "[a]lthough a juvenile court’s orders in a dependency case are, in one sense, never ‘final’ because the court retains jurisdiction to modify its orders upon a showing of changed circumstances, this court has always treated formal dependency adjudications as final and appealable judgments despite the fact that they are scheduled for further review by the juvenile court. ‘Under our caselaw, a formal determination by a juvenile court of a child’s dependency coupled with an award of custody incident to that determination will give rise to an appealable final judgment even if the custody award is denominated as a ‘temporary’ award and further review of the case is envisioned.’"   The Court added, "[i]n juvenile actions, an appeal must be initiated within 14 days of the entry of the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken. Rule 28(C), Ala. R. Juv. P."