Alabama Court of Civil Appeals Releases Two Cases Showing Different Sides of Final Judgment Rule

On November 14, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released two cases involving different  sides of the final judgment rule.

Evans v. First National Bank of Jasper, involved an appeal from an action on a promissory note and security agreement.  The plaintiff bank alleged a breach of contract claim seeking the balance due on a contract, plus an attorney fee, or, in the alternative, seeking the recovery of the vehicle financed pursuant to the contract.  The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the bank on the breach of contract claim. There was no ruling on the alternative claim. for possession. 

In Smith v. Smith,  the wife in a divorce action appealed from the trial court’s rulings following remand from the Court of Civil Appeals.  The order appealled from ordered that the wife was not entitled to a share of a personal injury award that the husband received and ordered the husband to pay the wife’s health insurance premiums for six months.  The order did not, however, adjudicate the wife’s claim for periodic alimony.   

The Court of Civil Appeals considered its jurisdiction in each case, noting in both Evans and Smith that a judgment is only final if nothing remains to be done in the trial court.  Application of the same rule resulted in different outcomes.  In Evans, although the alternative claim for possession had not been adjudicated, the judgment was still considered final because to award both money damages and possession would be to allow an impermissible double recovery.  There was, therefore, nothing left to be done in the trial court.  There was nothing to save the appeal in Smith, however.  There, the trial court simply did not adjudicate the issue of periodic alimony.  That issue remained to be adjudicated and the judgment could not be considered final and would not support an appeal.