Rule 54(b) Certification Improper Where Ruling Did Not Dispose Of All Aspects of Claim

In Alfa Mutual Ins. Co. v. Bone, [Ms. 1061808, 1061834] (Ala. Jan. 9, 2009), the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed an appeal based on an improper Rule 54(b) certification where the order did not dispose of all aspects of the declaratory judgment claim.  Disposing of some, but not all, issues raised by a claim does not support a Rule 54(b) certification.

The trial court granted summary judgment against Alfa on Alfa’s complaint seeking a declaration regarding its right and liabilities under an insurace policy. The trial court denied summary judgment on one of the issues.  The trial court certified its order as final under Rule 54(b).  Alfa appealed, and the insured cross-appealed the denial of its motion for summary judgmt on the remaining issue.

The Supreme Court reviewed its jurisdiction ex mero motu, and dismissed the appeal and cross-appeal after it determined that it did not have jurisdiction because the Rule 54(b) certification was improper.

The Supreme Court noted that a Rule 54(b) certification may be proper if the order completely disposed of one of a number of claims or completely disposed of all claims against one party.  The claim at issue in this case was a declaratory judgment to decide rights under an insurance policy.  Even though there were several issues raised in the claim for declaratory judgment action, it was still one "claim" for a declaratory judgment.  The fact that the trial court granted summary judgment on some of the grounds asserted for the declaratory judgment did not completely dispose of a "claim," and therefore certification was improper.

Further, the cross-appeal was due to be dismissed.  The denial of a summary judgment is an interlocutory order, and will not support an appeal.