Order in Which Trial Court Expressly Retained Jurisdiction Until Settlement Order Was Consummated Was Final Appealable Order Granting an Injunction

In Kappa Sigma Fraternity v. Ryan Price-Williams, the Alabama Supreme Court held that it had appellate jurisdiction even though the trial court had expressly retained jurisdiction pending the consummation of a settlement agreement. 

Price-Williams sued Kappa Sigma National Fraternity, a local Kappa Sigma chapter, and invidual members of the chapter for injuries he sustained in an assault at a Kappa Sigma fraternity house.  Just before the case was to be submitted to the jury, Price-Williams and the chapter entered into a confidential settlement agreement, but the agreement was not reduced to writing and a dispute arose as to its terms. 

The chapter contended that Price-Williams intended to release his claims against the national fraternity, the chapter, and the individual defendants in their capacities as agents of the chapter.  Price-Williams, however, contended that he intended to release only the national fraternity and the chapter, not the individual defendants, either as agents or individuals.  Price-Williams and the chapter each filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement according to their respective interpretations of it. 

Regarding the disputed terms of the settlement agreement, the trial court granted Price-Williams’ order to enforce the settlement agreement and denied the chapter’s motion.  It ordered the parties to exchange a release and the settlement funds on or before March 9.  The trial court further stated that "upon the consummation of the settlement, this matter will be deemed dismissed with prejudice, each party to bear its own cost."

The chapter filed its notice of appeal on March 9, 2009 without paying the settlement funds.  Price Williams filed a motion to dismiss that appeal, arguing that the appellate court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the contingency upon which the trial court’s order was to be made final–consummation of the settlement–had not occurred.  

The Alabama Supreme Court rejected that argument, however, noting that Rule 4(a)(1)(A) expressly contemplates appeals from orders "granting, continuing, modifying, refusing, or dissolving an injunction, or refusing to dissolve or to modify an injunction."  An injunction, the court reasoned, is defined as "a court order commanding or preventing an action."  The trial court’s order commanded the chapter to take action and was therefore injunctive in nature.  As a result, it could be appealed pursuant to  Rule 4(a)(1)(A).