October 11, 2017 Practice Points

Is a Separate Judgment in a Consolidated Action Appealable?

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari to determine whether a final judgment in one of multiple consolidated actions triggers the appeal clock for that case.

By Josh Jacobson

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari to determine whether a final judgment in one of multiple consolidated actions triggers the appeal clock for that case.

In Hall v. Hall, 679 F. App’x 142 (3d Cir.), cert. granted, ___ S. Ct. ___ (2017), a mother sued her attorney son in the District Court for the Virgin Islands. After the mother died, her daughter continued the action in her role as personal representative for the estate. The son later sued the daughter (his sister) in a separate action. The actions were consolidated and tried together, with a jury rejecting the estate’s claims and awarding the son $2 million. Separate judgments were then entered.

The estate filed a seemingly timely appeal from the judgment on its claims, but it did not immediately appeal the verdict on the son’s claims because it had prevailed on a post-trial motion in the district court. The son moved to dismiss the estate’s appeal, arguing that the Third Circuit lacked jurisdiction over the estate’s appeal while his claims remained pending in the district court. Relying on long-established circuit authority, the Third Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal, because “[w]hen two cases have been consolidated for all purposes, a final decision on one set of claims is generally not appealable while the second set remains pending.”

The estate’s petition for certiorari identifies a four-way split in the circuits. According to the petition, the First and Sixth Circuits would have heard the appeal; the Federal, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits would have declined jurisdiction over the appeal; the Second Circuit would have applied a “near per se” presumption against hearing the appeal; and a jurisdictional decision in the remaining circuits would hinge on whether the actions had been consolidated for limited purposes or “for all purposes.”

The Supreme Court recently held in Gelboim v. Bank of Am. Corp., 135 S. Ct. 897 (2015), that a final judgment in a single case in multidistrict litigation triggers the appeal clock for that case. The Court’s decision in Hall v. Hall is likely to hinge on whether the logic of Gelboim is extended to cases that have been consolidated under Fed. R. Civ. P. 42.

Josh Jacobson is with the Law Office of Josh Jacobson, P.A. in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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