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Interlocutory Decisions

In civil cases, generally, only final judgments are appealable.  A judgment is final only if it disposes of all parties and all issues so that no further action by the court is necessary to conclude the case.

However, there are certain exceptions to the rule.  One exception is interlocutory orders or rulings to be reported to the law court when the presiding justice believes that questions of law have been presented which require determination prior to any further proceedings in the case.

In Boyle v. Share, 377 A.2d 458 (Me. 1977), the court held that two requirements are to be met before an interlocutory order can be appealed.  The first is that the claim must be important and the second is that the order must be independent from the main action.

An interlocutory order is not appealable, if there is no express statutory authorization.[i]  Thus, interlocutory orders and judgments in ancillary proceedings are appealable only if a statute specifically authorizes an appeal before a final judgment.[ii]  Also, interlocutory orders and ancillary judgments may be appealed as points of error when the entire suit proceeds to final judgment and is appealed.

An appeal from a final order or judgment authorizes the appellate court to review any interlocutory order involving the merits of the case or affecting the judgment, regardless of whether the order itself is appealable.[iii]

Although a denial of summary judgment is not ordinarily appealable, it may be reviewed as part of an appealable judgment.[iv]  When a final decision is appealed, the appeal brings up all previous rulings of the district judge adverse to the appellant.  Otherwise there is no way to obtain appellate review of previous rulings.  However, there are exceptional few that were appealable regardless of finality.[v]

The most significant consideration in the granting of interlocutory appeals by the courts are whether the interest of sound and efficient judicial administration can best be served by allowing certain rulings to be appealed in advance of final judgment even if those determinations will ultimately be reviewable upon conclusion of the litigation.[vi]  A party who fails to seek review of an interlocutory order is not barred from seeking its review on appeal from final judgment.[vii]  Moreover, an appellate court is not bound by the law of a case as established by an interlocutory order issued by a court of subordinate jurisdiction from which no appeal is taken.[viii]

The rule which provides that generally on an appeal from a final judgment, every previous interlocutory order is open to appellate review, only applies to appeals from final judgments in the usual sense.  It does not ordinarily apply to permissible appeals from interlocutory orders.[ix]

An appeal from an interlocutory order is from the certified order and not from any other orders that may have been entered in the case.[x]  The scope of the issues open to the reviewing court is closely limited to the order appealed from and the reviewing court will not consider matters that were ruled upon in other orders.[xi]  On a certified interlocutory appeal, a U.S. Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to hear only questions that are material to the district court’s certified order.[xii]

[i] Grubbs v. Dembec, 241 Pa. Super. 18 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1976)

[ii] Morales v. State, 801 S.W.2d 624 (Tex. App. Dallas 1990)

[iii] Sivak v. State, 119 Idaho 211 (Idaho Ct. App. 1991)

[iv] Peterson v. Brown, 457 N.W.2d 745 (Minn. Ct. App. 1990)

[v] Bastian v. Petren Resources Corp., 892 F.2d 680, 682-683 (7th Cir. Ill. 1990)

[vi] Hammer v. Branstad, 463 N.W.2d 86 (Iowa 1990)

[vii] Grubbs v. Dembec, 241 Pa. Super. 18 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1976)

[viii] Pappas v. Harrow Stores, Inc., 140 A.D.2d 501 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep’t 1988)

[ix] Snowden v. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., 300 Md. 555, 560 (Md. 1984)

[x] 28 USCS § 1292

[xi] United States v. Stanley, 483 U.S. 669 (U.S. 1987)

[xii] Adkinson v. International Harvester Co., 975 F.2d 208 (5th Cir. Miss. 1992)

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