54(b) claims another victim
May 8, 2013 Leave a comment
Chancellor Primeaux has written numerous times about Rule 54(b) here, here, here and here. Despite those warnings and the dozen or so opinions from the Mississippi appellate courts in the previous five years, litigants continue to fall into the 54(b) trap.
M.R.C.P. 54(b) provides:
Judgment Upon Multiple Claims or Involving Multiple Parties. When more than
one claim for relief is presented in an action, whether as a claim, counter-claim, cross-claim, or
third-party claim, or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct the entry of a final
judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties only upon an expressed
determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an expressed direction for the entry
of the judgment. In the absence of such determination and direction, any order or other form of
decision, however designated which adjudicates fewer than all of the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties shall not terminate the action as to any of the claims or
parties and the order or other form of decision is subject to revision at any time before the entry
of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties.
The Mississippi Court of Appeals handed down yet another dismissal just yesterday on the basis of Rule 54(b) in the Conservatorship of Graves v. Graves, NO. 2011-CA-01661-COA.
Typically, I would not tell anyone that the facts of a matter were unimportant. However, in 54(b) dismissals the rule is more important than the facts. The Graves Court found:
[T]he record does not contain a Rule 54(b) certification from the chancery court. Further, it is clear that the allocation of the $1,000 in the trust account to the appropriate party is still pending in the chancery court. As such, the chancery court had not disposed of all the claims when David perfected his appeal, thereby making the current appeal an interlocutory one.
Graves, page 6. For the lawyers out there that do not care to read Graves and do not care to read 54(b), read the following: If the Court enters an order disposing of fewer than all the issues or parties without a proper 54(b) certification, then your appeal is premature. You are pissing away your client’s money! At some point, you will likely be sued for malpractice based the time and money wasted.