Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal again finds that it lacked jurisdiction over an appeal taken from a partial judgment that was not designated as final pursuant to Article 1915(B) of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure
In Constantin Land Trust v. BP America Prod. Co., et al., the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal continued its recent trend of scrutinizing whether appellate jurisdiction in fact exists prior to ruling on the merits of the appeal. In this case, the plaintiffs’ claims arose from BP’s use of property along Bayou Lafourche for response operations to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The plaintiffs purported to appeal the trial court’s judgment that sustained BP’s exception of prescription and dismissed the plaintiffs’ tort claims against BP. However, the trial court recognized in its oral reasons and judgment that the plaintiffs may have asserted contract claims against BP, and the only claims that were dismissed in the judgment were the plaintiffs’ tort claims.
Accordingly, BP filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the basis that the judgment was a partial judgment that was not designated as final pursuant to Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 1915(B). The motion was referred to the merits, and following briefing and oral argument on both the jurisdictional as well as the merits issues, the First Circuit granted BP’s motion and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained because the judgment addressed less than all of the plaintiffs’ claims against BP, it was immediately appealable only if authorized under article 1915 of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure. Finding that the judgment did not fall within any of the categories of immediately appealable judgments under article 1915(A), the trial court had to have designated the judgment as final after an express determination that there was no reason for just delay pursuant to article 1915(B). Because the trial court failed to make such designation, the judgment was not a final judgment for purposes of immediate appellate review, and the court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the plaintiffs’ appeal.
The court additionally noted that while it had the discretionary authority to convert the improper appeal to an application for supervisory writs and rule on the merits of the writ application, it declined to do so in this case, because (i) a ruling would not terminate the litigation, and (ii) the parties have an adequate remedy by review on appeal after rendition of a final judgment. Thus, despite accepting—and, in fact, requiring—briefing and argument on the full merits issues of the appeal, the court nonetheless declined to address them, finding instead that it lacked appellate jurisdiction based on the trial court’s failure to designate the judgment as final as required by the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure.
A copy of the First Circuit’s decision can be found here. For more information regarding the decision, please contract Shannon Holtzman at firstname.lastname@example.org, Tyler Trew at email@example.com, or Kathryn Gonski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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