Zapata Hermanos Sucesores v. Hearthside Baking Co.

313 F.3d 385 (7th Cir. 2002)

 

RULE:

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) is explicit in allowing a judge to grant summary judgment on less than a plaintiff's whole claim, and there is no hint of any requirement that the grant carve at a joint that would permit the judge to enter a final judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). If the plaintiff had two separate claims, and the judge granted summary judgment on one and set the other for trial, he could also if he wanted enter final judgment on the first dismissal, enabling the defendant to appeal immediately under Rule 54(b). If instead the plaintiff had one claim, and the judge granted it in part, the defendant could not appeal--the conditions of Rule 54(b) would not be satisfied--yet it is evident from the wording of Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) that this would be a proper partial summary judgment, for the rule expressly authorizes an order specifying the facts that appear without substantial controversy, including the extent to which the amount of damages or other relief is not in controversy.

FACTS:

The Convention, of which both the U.S. and Mexico are signatories, provides, as its name indicates, remedies for breach of international contracts for the sale of goods. Plaintiff supplier brought suit under the Convention for money due under 110 invoices, amounting to some $ 900,000, and also sought prejudgment interest plus attorneys' fees, which it contended are "losses" within the meaning of the Convention and are therefore an automatic entitlement of a plaintiff who prevails in a suit under the Convention. The district court awarded attorney fees to the supplier based on its findings that the supplier was entitled to compensation for its loss under the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods and that the company's failure to pay amounts that were due constituted the conduct of litigation in bad faith. The appellate court held, however, that neither the CISG nor the court's inherent authority to punish bad faith litigation permitted the award. 

ISSUE:

Was the denial of the motion on the ground that partial summary judgment cannot be granted unless the grant would give rise to an appealable judgment correct?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

Rule 56(d) of the civil rules is explicit in allowing the judge to grant summary judgment on less than the plaintiff's whole claim, and there is no hint of any requirement that the grant carve at a joint that would permit the judge to enter a final judgment under Rule 54(b). The rule expressly authorizes an order "specifying the facts that appear without substantial controversy, including the extent to which the amount of damages or other relief is not in controversy." No purpose would be served by confining the rule as the district judge did. If anything, judicial economy is better served by a partial summary judgment that is not appealable, since a Rule 54(b) appeal normally interrupts the proceedings in the district court.

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