436 F.3d 969 (8th Cir. 2006), 04-3985, Acton v. City of Columbia, Missouri

Docket Nº:04-3985.
Citation:436 F.3d 969
Party Name:Chris N. ACTON; Boyd J. Arends; Chris N. Babich; Tim Bach; Greg Bacon; Anthony Bannister; Arnold J. Bazat; Alan Beard; Mark E. Blakemore; Bruce Britt; Mark Brunstrom; K.P. Bullard; James E. Bullard; Eric T. Caszatt; Brian Clifford; Justin M. Collins; Daniel J. Comegys; Darrin W. Arends; Rusty Bradley; Ron Cook; Frank Kirby Crow; Keith E. Dothage; G
Case Date:February 08, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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436 F.3d 969 (8th Cir. 2006)

Chris N. ACTON; Boyd J. Arends; Chris N. Babich; Tim Bach; Greg Bacon; Anthony Bannister; Arnold J. Bazat; Alan Beard; Mark E. Blakemore; Bruce Britt; Mark Brunstrom; K.P. Bullard; James E. Bullard; Eric T. Caszatt; Brian Clifford; Justin M. Collins; Daniel J. Comegys; Darrin W. Arends; Rusty Bradley; Ron Cook; Frank Kirby Crow; Keith E. Dothage; Gary R. Drewing, II; Delwyn Duncan; Kyle Fansler; Kurt Fansler; Ron M. Fisher; Travis Floyd; Steven D. Forrest; Brad Frazier; Scott D. Frew; Andrew Gray; Tracy Gray; George F. Gregory; David Hanks; Eric D. Hartman; Aaron Hasheider; Antonio Hickam; John R. Hiley; Michael Holz; Cameron House; Greg Hrdina; Matt Hudson; Billy Hurt; John Igleheart; Robert Joseph Innes; James Jones; Jennifer Kamp; James E. Kandlik; Jeremy A. Kuhlmann; Carol Lexow; Dennis Long; Richard Martin; Shawn McCouom; Daniel J. McGavock; Jan B. McCrary; Brenda M. McGruder; Matthew Meinert; Rodger W. Mertensmeyer; William Morris; Robert Loren Muellet; Thomas G. Ogden; Douglas W. Oncken; Michael Orth; Eric T. Pooler; John Purves; David H. Richerson; Dennis G. Rohr; Brint Roush; Danny O. Sandker; Jon Adam Sapp; Brian S. Smith; Rachel L. Smith; Deborah L. Sorrell; Willam A. Stafford; Jeffrey Strawn; Daniel K. Sturgeon; Christopher Sturm; Michael G. Sutton; Timothy Taylor; Coline E. Tegerdine; J. Thacker; Eric William Thiessen; Doug Thoma; Kevin R. Thompson; Wade Thompson; Brian K. Tilman; Rolando Tobar; Lisa A. Rodd; Gary L. Warren, Jr.; Brian A. Wasson; Ladon Lee Whitaker; Tandall Elwin White; David C. Williamson; Tony Willits; Marc Wright; Donald R. Zielinski; John Wood; Richard Douglas; Mark W. Poole, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

CITY OF COLUMBIA, MISSOURI, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 04-3985.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

February 8, 2006

Submitted: Oct. 14, 2005.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

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Robert John Krehbiel, argued, St. Louis, Missouri, for appellant.

Douglas L. Steele, argued, Washington, D.C. (Thomas A. Woodley and Deirdre C. Fitzpatrick, Washington, D.C., on the brief), for appellee.

Before LOKEN, Chief Judge, LAY and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

I. BACKGROUND

LAY, Circuit Judge.

Chris N. Acton and ninety-nine current and former firefighters (the "firefighters") employed by the City of Columbia, Missouri (the "City") brought suit against the City for failing to include a series of payments in the firefighters' regular rate of pay, in violation of 28 U.S.C. § 207(e) (the Fair Labor Standards Act or "FLSA").

The firefighters subsequently moved for partial summary judgment, specifically alleging that monies earned under the City's sick leave buy-back, step-up pay, meal allowance, and standby programs should be included in their regular rate of pay. The firefighters also alleged the City willfully violated the FLSA and used an incorrect hours ratio to determine when the firefighters become eligible for overtime pay under the FLSA. The City did not file a cross-motion for summary judgment.

While the firefighters' motion for partial summary judgment was pending, the parties entered into a settlement agreement on the firefighters' longevity pay, step-up pay, and standby pay claims. During this interim period, the City also changed its hours ratio policy to comport with the requirements set forth in the firefighters' motion for partial summary judgment.

Regarding the firefighters' outstanding claims, the district court1 subsequently granted the firefighters' motion in part, ruling that sick leave buy-back monies should be included in the firefighters' regular rate of pay. However, the district court also denied the firefighters' motion in part, ruling that monies received under the City's meal allowance program were excluded from the regular rate. Finally, the district court found no evidence that the City willfully violated the FLSA.

After entry of the district court's ruling, the parties filed a stipulation for dismissal on the claims addressed in the settlement agreement. The parties further stipulated that final judgment should be entered on the claims adjudicated in the district court's order.

The district court then entered final judgment on the settled claims, and each was dismissed with prejudice. The district court also referenced its prior order granting in part and denying in part the firefighters' motion for partial summary judgment.

The City now appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to the firefighters, arguing that monies paid under its sick leave buy-back program should not be included in the firefighters' regular rate of pay.

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II. APPELLATE JURISDICTION

At oral argument this court raised the issue of jurisdiction. We hold that the facts of this case present a rare instance where we may exercise jurisdiction to hear an appeal from an order that was granted in part and denied in part.

The jurisdiction of federal courts of appeal is generally limited to appeals taken from "final decisions of the district courts." 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Certain exceptions to the final judgment rule exist, as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1292, Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and under the collateral order doctrine.2] Reinholdson v. Minnesota, 346 F.3d 847, 849 (8th Cir. 2003). None of these exceptions, however, are applicable to the facts of this case, and our analysis therefore turns on whether the district court's order constitutes a final decision for purposes of § 1291. Id.

For an order to be final, it must " ' "end[] the litigation on the merits and leave nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.' " Id. (quoting Cunningham v. Hamilton County, 527 U.S. 198, 204 (1999)). Moreover, a final order must " ' "reflect some clear and unequivocal manifestation by the trial court of its belief that the decision made, so far as the [trial court] is concerned, is the end of the case.' " Id. (quoting Goodwin v. United States, 67 F.3d 149, 151 (8th Cir. 1995)) (internal citations omitted).

We first note that an order denying summary judgment to one party coupled with an order granting summary judgment to the same party on a different claim does not normally constitute a final decision under § 1291 because all the claims in the case are not yet resolved. See Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229,233 (1945). The trial court's denial of summary judgment as to one claim establishes that fact issues still remain for resolution at trial. Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Morse, 762 F.2d 60, 63 (8th Cir. 1985) ("Denial of summary judgment . . . simply indicates that genuine fact issues exist [for trial]."). This denial, in turn, renders the entire order interlocutory, thereby precluding appellate review under § 1291. See Helm Fin. Corp. v. MNVA R.R., Inc., 212 F.3d 1076, 1079 (8th Cir. 2000) ("In general, denials of summary judgment are interlocutory and thus not immediately appealable.").

Here, however, when the district court granted the firefighters' motion for partial summary judgment on the sick leave buy-back claim and denied the firefighters' motion on the meal allowance and willfulness claims, it noted that no genuine issues of material fact existed regarding any of the firefighters' claims.

Specifically, in the portion of its order denying summary judgment, the district

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court cited Department of Labor regulations to support its conclusion that monies earned under the City's per diem meal allotment program should not be included in the firefighters' regular rate of pay. Similarly, the district court found no evidence to support the firefighters' contention that the City willfully violated the FLSA. In sum, the district court made no reference to any factual disputes that required resolution at trial in either of its summary judgment denials. Indeed, footnote number one of the district court's order expressly notes that, "[t]here is no dispute about the facts of this case." Acton v. City of Columbia, No. 03-4159-CV-NKL, 2004 WL 2152297, at *1 (W.D. Mo. Sept. 10, 2004).

Courts have long struggled to decide precisely which orders qualify as "final" for purposes of § 1291. Gillespie v. United States Steel Corp., 379 U.S. 148, 152 (1964). The determination as to whether an order is final is often far from clear and, in these instances, we are guided by the accepted rule that the requirement of finality under § 1291 be given a "practical rather than technical construction." Cohen v. Beneficial Indus. Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541, 546 (1949); see also Arendt v. United Power Ass'n, 635 F.2d 755, 756 (8th Cir. 1980).

To this end, we have no doubt that, had the City filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on the meal allowance and willfulness claims, the district court would have granted this motion.3 This conclusion is based on the district court's legal analysis and subsequent rulings as matters of law, as well as the district court's express determination that no genuine issues of material fact were implicated in any of the three claims before the court. We therefore recognize the part of the district court's order denying summary judgment to be, in sum and substance, a grant of summary judgment to the City. See Helm Fin. Corp., 212 F.3d at 1080 (stating that a denial of summary judgment as a matter of law, coupled with a voluntary dismissal of all remaining claims, "in effect made the denial of summary judgment a...

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