Appeals of Summary Judgment

An order granting a motion for summary judgment over the whole case is a final decision and hence appealable.  An order granting partial summary judgment from which no immediate appeal lies is merged into the final judgment and reviewable on appeal from that final judgment.  A partial summary judgment order is not appealable; even if the remaining claims are voluntarily dismissed without prejudice and that the dismissal order appears to be final on its face and the plaintiff is allowed to refile the claims later.  A summary judgment granted to some of the defendants in an action is not final as to all parties and therefore not immediately appealable if the remaining defendants did not join in the motion for summary judgment.  The denial of a motion for summary judgment is generally an interlocutory decision only, and therefore not directly appealable.  If the trial court’s order overrules a motion for summary judgment, it is interlocutory in nature making it nonappealable.

An appeal from the denial of a summary judgment motion on the grounds of qualified immunity and involves a purely legal question shall be entertained by a federal court of appeal.  Mere assertion of existence of a factual issue by the district court is not sufficient to initiate an appellate action.  An order denying summary judgment ordinarily is immediately appealable where the motion is made on the basis of the qualified immunity of a public officer or employee.  Similarly, denial of a summary judgment motion based on absolute immunity is immediately appealable since it is an issue of law, separable from the merits of the case, which once denied cannot be effectively preserved for later review.  Law does not authorize an appeal from orders denying motions for summary judgment because of unresolved issues of fact.

In Lind v. UPS, 254 F.3d 1281 (11th Cir. Fla. 2001), an employee filed a motion for summary judgment on the retaliation claim.  It was denied by the trial court and the case proceeded to a trial which ended by a decision that no act of retaliation had occurred.  The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision and stated that an order granting partial summary judgment from which no immediate appeal lies is merged into the final judgment and reviewable on appeal from that final judgment.  An order granting summary judgment on certain issues is a judgment on those issues.  It forecloses further dispute on those issues at the trial stage. An order denying a motion for partial summary judgment, on the other hand, is merely a judge’s determination that genuine issues of material fact exist. It is not a judgment, and does not foreclose trial on the issues on which summary judgment was sought.


Inside Appeals of Summary Judgment