United States Supreme Court Clarifies Right to Appeal Single Final Judgment amidst Cases Consolidated under FRAP 42(a).
It is not uncommon that related matters be consolidated pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a), such that discovery is held together and they are tried together. Nevertheless, final judgment may be entered in one of the consolidated matters before it is entered in the remaining matters. In Hall v. Hall, the Supreme Court held that the final judgment entered in the earlier of the consolidated cases is immediately appealable, even if the other consolidated cases remain pending. In making this holding, the Court rejected the suggestion that the final judgment in one of the consolidated cases be treated as an unappealable interlocutory order. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the Third Circuit’s dismissal of the appeal of one final judgment stemming from a consolidated case.
The Hall court explained that consolidation is historically understood “not as completely merging the constituent cases into one, but instead as enabling more efficient case management while preserving the distinct identities of the cases the rights of the separate parties in them.” The main point to be gleaned from Hall is that cases consolidated under FRAP 42(a) retain their individual existence, and thus should be treated individually when considering whether a final judgment is appealable. Although not specifically addressed by the court, this is important to remember because a party who believed that he should wait until after final judgments on all consolidated matters may miss the jurisdictional time to file an appeal.
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