Improper 54(b) Certification

Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association v. Skinner, [Ms. 1200132, Oct. 22, 2021] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2021). The Court (Mitchell, J.; Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Bryan, and Mendheim, JJ., concur) concludes that the Mobile Circuit Court exceeded its discretion in certifying as a final judgment under Rule 54(b) a summary judgment in favor of Suzanne Dockery in a declaratory judgment action filed by Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association (“AIUA”) invoking an arson exclusion contending that it had no obligation to Suzanne and her husband James Dockery for a fire loss at their home in Chunchula. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Suzanne “ruling that: (1) the language of the insurance policy did not exclude coverage to Suzanne based on the alleged arson of James acting alone; and (2) to the extent the policy purported to do so, that exclusion was void as against public policy under Hosey v. Seibels Bruce Group, 363 So. 2d 751 (Ala. 1978).” Ms. * 3. The Court vacates the Circuit Court’s subsequent 54(b) certification of the summary judgment in favor of Suzanne. Reiterating its settled disfavor of piecemeal appellate review, the Court emphasizes that

Piecemeal appeals are particularly inappropriate when the issues on appeal may be mooted by resolution of the remaining claims…. And that is the case here. The circuit court’s summary judgment holds that Suzanne is owed coverage even if James started the fire. That holding makes a difference only if, in its still-pending claim against James’s estate, AIUA establishes that James did start the fire.

Ms. *5.

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