Alabama District Court Refuses to Enter MDL 875’s Grant of Summary Judgment to Defendants as Final Judgment

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The plaintiff brought an action in state court alleging defendants manufactured asbestos products, which caused her husband’s asbestosis and ultimate death. The defendants removed to federal court based on diversity, created after the state court severed the worker’s compensation and asbestos claims. The federal case contained only issues of asbestos injury and was transferred to MDL 875 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Four years later, the case returned to the Northern District of Alabama. Rockwell and Eaton then moved to make the MDL’s grant of summary judgment in their favor final under Rule 54(b), which the court denied.

A Rule 54(b) order allows the court to direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties if there is no just reason for delay. In doing so, the court must determine: (1) that the judgment is final, and  (2) whether there is any just reason for delay. The court stated:  “In this case, all of the pressure is on the second prong, but neither the parties nor the magistrate have conducted any analysis to suggest why there is no just reason for delay.” The bare statement that there is no just reason for delay does not suffice.   Both analyses for Rockwell and Eaton were flawed, in that the magistrate judge simply stated there was no just reason to delay entry of final judgment.

Read the full decision.