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APPEALS - RULE 54(B) FINALITY - HIGHLANDS OF LAY, LLC V. MURPHREE

Highlands of Lay, LLC v. Murphree, [Ms. 1110674, Aug. 10, 2012] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2012). This opinion will prospectively affect orders of finality pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P. The trial court entered a default judgment against Highlands, but not against its alleged agent, Miller. The Supreme Court Clerk's Office entered a routine order (a "Sadie Foster" order, per Foster v. Greer & Sons, Inc., 446 So. 2d 605 (Ala. 1984)) inviting the judge to either make the default judgment final, adjudicate the remaining claims, or do nothing, in which case the appeal would be dismissed. The trial court entered a Rule 54(b) order purporting to make the judgment against Highlands final. The Court, however, holds that the claims against Miller are too closely intertwined with the claims against Highlands for there to be piecemeal appeals and that, therefore, the circuit court exceeded its discretion in rendering the order of finality. For lack of a proper final judgment, the Court dismisses the appeal. After the Court quotes the Sadie Foster order, a footnote explains: "Both the trial court and this Court's Clerk's Office acted appropriately in regard to the order. However, in light of the decision in this matter, the form order to be issued prospectively in similar situations has been amended." The Court does not say, but presumably the amendment will invite the trial court to consider whether the remaining claims are too closely intertwined with the existing non-final judgment for this first judgment to be made final pursuant to Rule 54(b).
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