A decision that would be appealable when immediately followed by the entry of judgment is one that forms the basis of a final judgment without subsequent intervention by a district court.
On February 6, 1989, Eric Clausen ("Clausen") 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 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"). Plaintiff employee was injured while working at a job, and filed an action for negligence in the trial court. Inter alia, defendant was the owner of job site. The trial court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff in accordance with the jury's verdict. Later, the trial court clarified its judgment to hold defendant jointly and severally liable to plaintiff. Defendant filed notices of appeal from the trial court's amended judgment. The trial court found, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b), that the judgment entered in favor of plaintiff and against defendant was a final judgment. On appeal, the court affirmed.
Did the lower court err when it entered an order in which it found, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b), that the judgment entered in favor of plaintiff employee and against defendant was a final judgment and that there was no just reason for delaying appellate review?
The court affirmed the lower court's judgment. The court held that the lower court's amended judgment was close enough to a decision that would be appealable if immediately followed by the entry of judgment to be a decision for the purposes of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, but far enough from an interlocutory decision, the notice of appeal from which could never serve as a notice of appeal from the final judgment. The court held that defendant'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. The court held that giving effect to the premature notice of appeal after a belated Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) certification has been obtained would have been in the spirit of Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(2). The court held that Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(2) suggested that a premature notice of appeal related forward to the date of a subsequent Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) certification.