Appeal Dismissed Where Judgment Did Not Adjudicate Motion Left Pending in Earlier Suit

A mother appealed from a judgment, trying to address a motion that had been left unresolved in an earlier suit.  The current judgment did not address that unresolved motion.  Nor did any other ruling.  Lacking a final judgment adjudicating that earlier motion, the Court of Civil Appeals lacked jurisdiction to review the case. Fielding v. Fielding, No. 2060243 (Ala. Civ. App.) (July 27, 2007).

Both suits involved a father’s obligation to give his daughter post-minority educational support.  The earlier case had ended with a substantive motion left unresolved.  Following a judgment on the extent of the father’s obligation, the mother filed two motions: a Rule 59 motion to alter, amend, or vacate that judgment; and a “separate motion” to modify the father’s obligation.  (This “separate motion” was based on circumstances that had allegedly arisen after the hearing that yielded the judgment.)  The trial court denied the Rule 59 motion and dismissed the case without ruling on the mother’s “separate” modification motion.

The mother eventually filed a new case.  She again asked the court to modify the father’s support obligation.  The trial court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the case and, in a judgment entered August 11, 2006, dismissed the suit.

The mother appealed. More precisely, she filed two notices of appeal.  Both “designated the August 11, 2006, judgment . . . as the judgment appealed from.”  The first notice, however, was filed in, and directed at, the earlier lawsuit. It claimed that the August 2006 order had dismissed her motion to modify which had been left pending in the earlier case.

The Court of Civil Appeals rejected the bid for review.  The August 2006 judgment did not rule on the motion in the earlier case.  (It did not even address the earlier motion, as a reading of Fielding will show, much less purport to resolve it.)  Nor did any other ruling.  “[I]n the absence of a final judgment adjudicating the mother’s [earlier] motion,” the Court of Civil Appeals had “no jurisdiction in that action.”  The appeal referencing the earlier suit was dismissed.