21 F.3d 1181 (1st Cir. 1994), 93-1106, Clausen v. Sea-3, Inc.

Docket Nº:93-1106.
Citation:21 F.3d 1181
Party Name:Eric CLAUSEN, Plaintiff, Appellee, v. SEA-3, INC., Defendant, Appellee. Storage Tank Development Corporation, Defendant, Appellant.
Case Date:April 19, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 1181

21 F.3d 1181 (1st Cir. 1994)

Eric CLAUSEN, Plaintiff, Appellee,

v.

SEA-3, INC., Defendant, Appellee.

Storage Tank Development Corporation, Defendant, Appellant.

No. 93-1106.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 19, 1994

Heard Sept. 9, 1993.

Page 1182

Robert L. Elliott with whom Charla Bizios Labbe and Kfoury & Elliott, P.C., Manchester, NH, were on brief, for Sea-3, Inc.

Thomas E. Clinton with whom Robert J. Murphy, Clinton & Muzyka, P.C., Boston, MA, was on brief, for Storage Tank Development Corp.

Michael B. Latti with whom David F. Anderson and Latti Associates, Boston, MA, were on briefs, for plaintiff.

Before BOUDIN Circuit Judge, COFFIN and CAMPBELL, Senior Circuit Judges.

LEVIN H. CAMPBELL, Senior Circuit Judge.

On February 6, 1989, Eric Clausen ("Clausen"), plaintiff-appellee, slipped, fell, and injured his back while working as a pile driver at a job site at a fuel terminal facility on the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth Harbor, Newington, New Hampshire. A Massachusetts resident, Clausen sued for negligence, under the diversity jurisdiction, in the United States District Court for the District of New

Page 1183

Hampshire. Defendants were the owner of the facility, Storage Tank Development Corp. ("Storage Tank"), a New Hampshire corporation, and the occupier of the facility, Sea-3, Inc. ("Sea-3"), a Texas corporation. Defendants filed third-party complaints against Clausen's employer, Goudreau Construction Corp. ("Goudreau").

Clausen's claims went to trial beginning on October 5, 1992. Storage Tank's and Sea-3's third-party claims against Goudreau were omitted from that trial. 1 On October 9, 1992, the jury returned a special verdict in Clausen's favor, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 49(a), finding him to have been damaged in the amount of $1,426,000. 2 On October 13, 1992, the district court entered judgment in accordance with the special verdict. On December 31, 1992, the district court clarified its October 13, 1992, judgment to hold Sea-3 and Storage Tank jointly and severally liable to Clausen for $1,426,000, with prejudgment interest at the rate of ten percent (10%) from the date of the complaint to the date of the verdict, plus costs. On January 22, 1993, Sea-3 and Storage Tank filed separate notices of appeal from the district court's December 31, 1992, amended judgment. 3 We affirm.

I.

APPELLATE JURISDICTION

Clausen argues that we do not have appellate jurisdiction over Storage Tank's appeal because the district court's December 31, 1992, amended judgment was not an appealable "final decision" as that term is used in 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291 (1988). 4 We trace the procedural history.

When Storage Tank filed its notice of appeal on January 22, 1993, from the district court's December 31, 1992, amended judgment, its own unresolved, third-party claims were still pending against Goudreau. This situation was problematic because a judgment

that completely disposes of ... any separate claim in the suit[,] without disposing of the third-party claim, is not appealable unless a judgment is entered by the district court [pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) 5] on the express determination that there is no just reason for delay, and an express direction for the entry of judgment.

6 James W. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice p 54.36 (2d ed.1993). As the district court had not yet entered an appealable judgment within Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b), this court advised Storage Tank, by order entered February 9, 1993, that "[u]pon review of the record in this case, it appears that this court may not have jurisdiction to consider the appeal because a third party complaint ... may be outstanding." We directed Storage Tank "either to move for voluntary dismissal under Fed.R.App.P. 42(b) or to show cause why [its] appeal should not be dismissed."

Following our February 9, 1993, show cause order, Clausen on February 19 moved the district court to "certify [pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) ] that the judgment entered on October 13 and amended on December

Page 1184

31, 1992[,] is a 'final judgment' and 'that there is no just reason for delay.' " Storage Tank then moved this court for additional time to respond to our February 9, 1993, show cause order. On March 4, 1993, we granted appellant's motion, extending the time within which Storage Tank could respond to our February 9, 1993, order until March 23, 1993. In our March 4, 1993, order we instructed Storage Tank that, "[i]f the district court certifies its [judgment] as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), then, in order to avoid any ... doubts [over jurisdiction], appellant[ ] should file [a] new notice[ ] of appeal."

On March 31, 1993, over objection by the appellant and after oral argument, the district court entered an order in which it found, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b), "that the judgment entered on December 31, 1992, in favor of Eric Clausen and against Storage Tank ... is a final judgment and that there is no just reason for delaying appellate review." Notwithstanding our earlier direction that, to avoid jurisdictional complications, Storage Tank submit a new notice of appeal following the district court's Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) certification, Storage Tank did not take such action.

Clausen now contends that as Storage Tank's notice of appeal--filed on January 22, 1993, more than two months prior to the district court's entry of judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b)--was premature, it should be treated as a nullity. 6 Clausen is undoubtedly correct that Storage Tank's notice of appeal filed after the district court's entry of its amended judgment, but before its Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) certification, was premature. See, e.g., Tidler v. Eli Lilly & Co., 824 F.2d 84, 85 (D.C.Cir.1987). The amended judgment was unappealable until the district court "direct[ed] the entry of a final judgment ... upon an express determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an express direction for the entry of judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). This was eventually done, and we are at a loss as to why Storage Tank's attorney failed to follow our instruction to file a new notice of appeal following the district court's Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) certification. 7 We conclude, nonetheless, that the prematurity of Storage Tank's notice of appeal does not deprive us of jurisdiction over the current appeal.

The majority of circuits that have addressed jurisdictional quagmires similar to this one have held that a belated Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) certification ripens a premature notice of appeal as of the date of the certification. See, e.g., United States v. Hardage, 982 F.2d 1491, 1494-95 (10th Cir.1993); Harrison v. Edison Bros. Apparel Stores, Inc., 924 F.2d 530, 532 (4th Cir.1991); In re Chateaugay Corp., 922 F.2d 86, 91 (2d Cir.1990); Martinez v. Arrow Truck Sales, Inc., 865 F.2d 160, 161-62 (8th Cir.1988); Crowley Maritime Corp. v. Panama Canal Comm'n, 849 F.2d 951, 954 (5th Cir.1988); Tidler v. Eli Lilly & Co., 824 F.2d 84, 85-86

Page 1185

(D.C.Cir.1987); Aguirre v. S.S. Sohio Intrepid, 801 F.2d 1185, 1189 (9th Cir.1986); Lac Courte Oreilles Band v. Wisconsin, 760 F.2d 177, 180-81 (7th Cir.1985). But see Useden v. Acker, 947 F.2d 1563, 1570 (11th Cir.1991), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 2927, 124 L.Ed.2d 678 (1993); Haskell v. Washington Township, 891 F.2d 132, 133 (6th Cir.1989). In reaching this decision, the circuits "follow the same relation forward principle as is provided by [Fed.R.App.P.] 4(a)(2), 8 [although they] do not generally refer to that rule." Allan Ides, The Authority of a Federal District Court to Proceed After a Notice of Appeal Has Been Filed, 143 F.R.D. 307, 316 (1992) (footnote not in original). The Tenth Circuit, however, specifically referred to Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(2) in its holding that, "[w]hen the district court case is still ongoing at the time the appeal reaches this court's attention, ... [and] a belated Rule 54(b) certification has been obtained ... after the notice of appeal was filed, we will deem the notice of appeal to ripen as of the date of certification and will accept the jurisdiction pursuant to the savings provision of Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(2)." Lewis v. B.F. Goodrich Co., 850 F.2d 641, 645 (10th Cir.1988). The Fifth Circuit has stated that "giving effect to the premature notice of appeal [after a belated Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) certification has been obtained] is in the spirit of Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(2)." Metallurgical Indus., Inc. v. Fourtek, Inc., 771 F.2d 915, 916 (5th Cir.1985). Hence, while the problem might also be tackled from some other direction, Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(2) suggests that a premature notice of appeal relates forward to the date of a subsequent Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) certification.

Clausen argues, however, that, by virtue of a recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court in FirsTier Mortgage Co. v. Investors Mortgage Insurance Co., 498 U.S. 269, 111 S.Ct. 648, 112 L.Ed.2d 743 (1991), Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(2) cannot rescue Storage Tank's prematurely filed appeal. There, the Supreme Court decided that, "under [Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(2) ], a premature notice of appeal relates forward to the date of entry of a final 'judgment' only when the ruling designated in the notice is a 'decision' for purposes of the Rule." FirsTier, 498 U.S. at 274 n. 4, 111 S.Ct. at 652 n. 4 (emphasis added). Although Clausen argues to the contrary, we believe that the district court's December 31, 1992, amended judgment was sufficiently a "decision" for purposes of Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(2).

In FirsTier, the petitioner filed its notice of appeal on February 8, 1989, after the district court had announced from the bench, on January 26, 1989, that it intended to grant summary judgment for the respondent. On March 3, 1989, the district court entered judgment. The question...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP