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Cases consolidated for multidistrict litigation pretrial proceedings ordinarily retain their separate identities, so an order disposing of one of the discrete cases in its entirety should qualify under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1291 as an appealable final decision. 28 U.S.C.S. § 1407 refers to individual actions which may be transferred to a single district court, not to any monolithic multidistrict action created by transfer. And Congress anticipated that, during the pendency of pretrial proceedings, final decisions might be rendered in one or more of the actions consolidated pursuant to § 1407. It specified that at or before the conclusion of pretrial proceedings, each of the transferred actions must be remanded to the originating district unless the action shall have been previously terminated. 28 U.S.C.S. § 1407(a).
The London InterBank Offered Rate (LIBOR) was a reference point in determining interest rates for financial instruments in the United States and globally. The JPML established a multidistrict litigation (LIBOR MDL) for cases involving allegations that defendant-banks understated their borrowing costs, thereby depressing LIBOR and enabling the banks to pay lower interest rates on financial instruments sold to investors. Over 60 actions were consolidated for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, including a class action filed by petitioners Ellen Gelboim and Linda Zacher, who raised the single claim that several banks, acting in concert, had violated federal antitrust law. Determining that no plaintiff could assert a cognizable antitrust injury, the District Court granted the banks' motion to dismiss all antitrust claims, including the Gelboim-Zacher complaint's sole claim. The District Court thus dismissed the Gelboim-Zacher complaint, denied leave to amend, and dismissed the case in its entirety. Other cases made part of the LIBOR MDL, however, presented discrete claims which remained before the District Court. Assuming that the Gelboim-Zacher plaintiffs were entitled to an immediate appeal of right under §1291, the District Court granted Rule 54(b) certifications authorizing the plaintiffs in some of the multiple-claim actions to appeal the dismissal of their antitrust claims while their other claims remained pending in the District Court. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, acting on its own motion, dismissed the appeal filed by Gelboim and Zacher for want of appellate jurisdiction. Petitioners challenged the decision.
Under the circumstances, did the petitioners’ complaint retain its independent status for purposes of appellate jurisdiction under §1291?
The Court reversed the Second Circuit’s judgment and held that the Gelboim-Zacher complaint retained its independent status for purposes of appellate jurisdiction under §1291. According to the Court, petitioners’ right to appeal ripened when the District Court dismissed their case, not upon eventual completion of multidistrict proceedings in all of the consolidated cases. The District Court's order dismissing the Gelboim-Zacher complaint was a final decision. The District Court completed its adjudication of petitioners' complaint and terminated their action. Petitioners were thus no longer participants in the consolidated proceedings. Nothing about the initial consolidation of their civil action with other LIBOR MDL cases rendered the dismissal of their complaint tentative or incomplete. When the transferee court overseeing pretrial proceedings in multidistrict litigation granted a defendant’s dispositive motion on all issues in some transferred cases, those cases became immediately appealable. According to the Court, Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) was designed to permit acceleration of appeals in multiple-claim cases, not to retard appeals in single-claim cases.