Rule 54(b) Certification Abuse of Discretion where Remaining Claims Closely Intertwined with Decided Claims

In Centennial Assoc., Ltd. v. Guthrie, No. 1080015 (Ala. April 17, 2009), the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from a summary judgment disposing of all of the plaintiffs’ claims against one of the defendants because the Court found that the trial court abused its discretion in issuing a Rule 54(b) certification that permitted appeal from the partial summary judgment. “Although the order made the basis of the Rule 54(b) certification disposes of the entire claim against Guthrie, thus satisfying the requirements of Rule 54(b) dealing with eligibility for consideration as a final judgment, there remains the additional requirement that there be no just reason for delay. A trial court’s conclusion to that effect is subject to review by this Court to determine whether the trial court exceeded its discretion in so concluding . . . the issues in the claim against Guthrie, the judgment on which was certified as final under Rule 54(b), and the claims that remain pending in the trial court ‘are so closely intertwined that separate adjudication would pose an unreasonable risk of inconsistent results.’ Branch v. SouthTrust Bank of Dothan, N.A., 514 So. 2d at 1374. As a result, the trial court exceeded its discretion in certifying the June 12, 2008, order as final.”