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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Appealable? Here's an odd case raising an issue of appealablility.

An employee sued an insurer, who had refused to pay her disability benefits, and her employer.
The District Court dismissed the claims against the employer, holding that they were preempted by ERISA, and remanded the case against the insurer, holding that it had applied the wrong standard in categorizing the requirement of the employee's occupation. At the end of its order, the District court stated that the Clerk of the Court was directed to close the case.

The employee appealed the dismissal of her claims against her employer, and her employer moved to dismiss the appeal because the order was not final in lght of the remand.

The Second Circuit denied the motion, holding that there was no danger of piecemeal appeals in allowing the appeal to go forward.

The case is confusing in that the District Court did not make the requisite determination that there is no just reason for delay nor was there an express direction by the District Court for the entry of judgment (although there was a direction to close the case) as required by Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in order to make the order appealable. It appears that the Second Circuit, without saying so, made the requisite determination itself and deemed the direction to close the case as a direction to enter judgment. But is that valid? I am unaware of any Circuit Court that has evaded the requirements of Rule 54(b) in this manner (though I intend to look into the matter). If anyone else knows of any case law relating to this issue, please let me know.

The decision in Nelson v. Unum Life Insurance Co. can be found here.

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