Brief Fact Summary.
The trial court granted summary judgment to Dilly (Plaintiff) concerning liability in her lawsuit against S.S. Kresge (Defendant). Prior to the determination of damages, Defendant appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
An order granting summary judgment for a plaintiff before determining damages is not a final decision and, therefore, not subject to appeal.
Plaintiff brought an action against her employer, Defendant, alleging that an assistant manager had shaken her, injuring her neck. Both parties moved for summary judgment and the district court granted Plaintiff’s motion on the issue of liability, setting a hearing on the matter of damages. Defendant moved to set aside the summary judgment. The court denied Defendant’s motion and Defendant appealed the denial as well as the summary judgment order.
Can a defendant appeal an order for summary judgment on the matter of liability before damages have been determined?
(Widener, J.) No. An order granting summary judgment for a plaintiff before determining damages is not a final decision and, therefore, not subject to appeal. A final decision is one that comes at the conclusion of the trial proceedings and leaves nothing left for the court to do but execute the judgment. Here, the court still has the matter of damages outstanding, so the decision is not final. The appeal is dismissed.
Interlocutory appeals are permitted under certain circumstances before a final decision is reached at the trial level, but Defendant’s appeal did not qualify as an interlocutory appeal. The final decision requirement ensures judicial economy, preventing appeals when the damages awarded are low enough to make appeal more costly than compliance or multiple appeals at different stages of the same action. Had Defendant’s motion for summary judgment been granted, the decision would have been final and appealable, as there would have been no need for a determination of damages.