Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fourth Circuit Holds that Denial of Motions to Amend and to Reconsider Are Not Final Orders for Purposes of FRCP 54(b)

Per Bridges v. Maryland State Police, 441 F.3d 197 (4th Cir. March 20, 2006):

After the district court entered an administrative order denying the plaintiffs' motion for class certification without prejudice to its later renewal, the representative parties abandoned their efforts to represent a class. Instead, they filed a motion to amend their complaint to add 18 individuals as new plaintiffs. By order dated July 26, 2004, the district court denied their motion to amend, concluding that the new parties could not be added to the case because their claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The 18 would-be plaintiffs then filed a motion on their own behalf, through counsel, for reconsideration, and by an order dated December 9, 2004, the district court also denied that motion. The plaintiffs and would-be plaintiffs appealed from the district court's orders denying the plaintiffs' motion to amend and denying the would-be plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration, challenging the district court's application of the statute of limitations.Five months after the district court denied the motion for reconsideration and after the plaintiffs and would-be plaintiffs filed appeals, the plaintiffs and would-be plaintiffs filed a motion to have the district court's two orders certified as final judgments under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), asserting that “there is no just reason for delay of the entry of judgment as to the putative plaintiffs.” The district court signed the proposed order electronically on May 25, 2005, but never entered a corresponding judgment under Rule 58(a). The plaintiffs and would-be plaintiffs again appealed.



A denial of a motion to amend a complaint is not a final order, nor is it an appealable interlocutory or collateral order. Accordingly, we have no jurisdiction over the original plaintiffs' appeal of the district court's July 26, 2004 order denying their motion to amend the complaint to add new party plaintiffs to the action. Even if the order were somehow appealable, the original plaintiffs, who were and could be the only parties to the motion to amend, did not timely appeal the district court's order…

By force of the same reasoning, we also lack jurisdiction to hear the original plaintiffs' appeal of the district court's order denying the would-be plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of the district court's July 26, 2004 order denying the amendment. The denial of reconsideration of a nonappealable order is not a final order.

Finally, Rule 54(b) does not provide the parties or the district court with the authority to convert an order denying a motion to amend or denying reconsideration of that motion into an order that “adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties,” as required by Rule 54(b). See Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Elect. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7, 100 S.Ct. 1460, 64 L.Ed.2d 1 (1980) (district courts are authorized to use Rule 54(b) to certify final judgments-“ ‘final’ in the sense that it is an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action” (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added)). The motion to amend and the motion for reconsideration of the motion to amend adjudicated no party's “claims”; the would-be plaintiffs were never “parties” whose “rights and liabilities” were adjudicated; and the actual plaintiffs' own claims were not in any way adjudicated by the district court's ruling. In addition, the plaintiffs and would-be plaintiffs' second appeal filed after the court granted the Rule 54(b) motion was not taken from a final judgment because a judgment was not entered as required by Rule 58(a). Indeed, such a judgment reflecting the adjudication of some claims or parties could not have been crafted because no claims of parties were adjudicated.

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