September 25, 2013 Articles

Untangling Appellate Jurisdiction

The key to cases involving multiple rulings on multiple claims? Simple: find the final judgment

By Michael R. Lied

A recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a case involving multiple rulings on multiple claims against multiple defendants reveals the difficulties in untangling appellate jurisdiction. The key? Simple—find the final judgment.

The appeal stemmed from a breach-of-contract suit filed by a construction company, Tradesmen International, Inc., against four of Tradesmen’s former employees who founded a new construction company, Professional Labor Support (PLS). Tradesmen Int’l, Inc. v. Black, 2013 WL 3949020 (7th Cir. 2013). In the suit, Tradesmen alleged 10 counts, including breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, misappropriation of confidential information, and violation of the defendants’ covenants not to compete. After the suit was filed, one of the defendants filed for bankruptcy, and proceedings against him were stayed. The lawsuit proceeded against the remaining defendants, and the district court ultimately granted summary judgment in their favor on all counts except with respect to the covenant-not-to-compete claim, which the court dismissed as moot. The remaining (and successful) defendants filed a motion for attorney fees; the district court denied their motion.

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