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January 31, 2015 Practice Points

Dismissal from Multidistrict Litigation Triggers Appeal Rights

The Supreme Court ruled that dismissal of a discrete case transferred as part of MDL is a final decision triggering appeal rights and that party need not await decision with respect to the entire MDL matter before seeking appellate review.

By Justin L. Heather

In Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that dismissal of an action in its entirety as part of multidistrict litigation (MDL) triggers a parties’ right to appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. The plaintiffs filed a class-action complaint against various banks alleging antitrust violations, which was consolidated with approximately 60 other cases as a single MDL matter for pretrial proceedings. The district court dismissed certain of those cases in their entirety, a decision affirmed by the Second Circuit.

In reversing the lower courts, the Supreme Court concluded that because cases consolidated for MDL pretrial proceedings ordinarily retain their separate identities, an order disposing of one of the discrete cases in its entirety should qualify as an appealable final decision. The decision explained that section 1407 refers to individual “actions” transferrable to a single district court as part of MDL rather than a separate action created by transfer. The Court explained that the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ complaints had the “hallmarks” of a final decision, including that the plaintiffs were no longer active participants in those proceedings, and nothing about transfer as part of MDL proceedings undermines the finality of that decision. In sum, the Court held that the appeal-clock trigger is the district court’s dismissal pursuant to a dispositive motion and that a party need not await a conclusion of the MDL proceedings before seeking appellate review.

Keywords: litigation, multidistrict litigation, MDL, JMLS, appeals, 28 U.S.C. § 1291, young lawyers

— Justin L. Heather, YAC Content Manager, The Quinlan Law Firm LLC, Chicago, IL

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