Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

KAPOSSY v. MCGRAW-HILL

October 4, 1996

STEPHEN KAPOSSY, Plaintiff,
v.
MCGRAW-HILL, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ORLOFSKY

 ORLOFSKY, District Judge:

 In this employment discrimination case, plaintiff seeks entry of final judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) of certain issues resolved by this court's Opinion and Order on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed March 21, 1996. See Kapossy v. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 921 F. Supp. 234 (D.N.J. 1996). Plaintiff also seeks certification of several in limine rulings under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), and a stay of this action pending interlocutory appeal. The challenged evidentiary rulings were announced in a Bench Opinion read into the record on August 7, 1996, and were memorialized in an Order filed on August 8, 1996. *fn1" The facts of this case are fully set forth in this court's Opinion on summary judgment and will not be reiterated here. See Kapossy, 921 F. Supp. at 238-39.

 I. Rule 54(b) Certification

 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) provides one avenue for immediate appeal to a Circuit Court of Appeals, subject only to that court's deferential scrutiny of the district court's decision to enter final judgment. The Rule provides, in pertinent part:

 
When more than one claim for relief is presented in an action, whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct the entry of a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties only upon an express determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an express direction for the entry of judgment.

 Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b).

 This court is required to undertake a two-step analysis in deciding whether to direct the entry of final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b). First, "finality" must be satisfied, "in the sense that [the judgment] is 'an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action.'" Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Electric Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7, 64 L. Ed. 2d 1, 100 S. Ct. 1460 (1980) (quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 436, 100 L. Ed. 1297, 76 S. Ct. 895 (1956)). If this initial hurdle is cleared, the court must determine that the matter is "ready for appeal . . . taking into account judicial administrative interests as well as the equities involved." Id. at 8. In making this latter determination, the district court is obligated to explain the exercise of its discretion. See Cemar, Inc. v. Nissan Motor Corp., 897 F.2d 120 (3d Cir. 1990) (dismissing appeal, vacating order, and remanding when the district court failed to explain its reason for the Rule 54(b) certification).

 In the present case, this court need not, indeed, may not even exercise the discretion implicit in the second prong of the Rule 54(b) analysis, because Kapossy cannot demonstrate that his is a "multiple claim" action, and "Rule 54(b) 'does not apply to a single claim action." Liberty Mutual v. Wetzel, 424 U.S. 737, 742-43, 47 L. Ed. 2d 435, 96 S. Ct. 1202 (1976) (quoting Sears, Roebuck, 351 U.S. at 435).

 A determination that the action involves "multiple claims" is a jurisdictional prerequisite to the court of appeals' consideration of an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). Allegheny County Sanitary Auth. v. United States EPA, 732 F.2d 1167, 1172 (3d Cir. 1984). Admittedly, the question of what constitutes a "claim" for purposes of Rule 54(b) is nowhere precisely defined. See Sussex Drug Products v. Kanasco, Ltd., 920 F.2d 1150 (3d Cir. 1990). The Third Circuit has even declared that "uncertainty is the rule." Id. at 1154.

 Be that as it may, a useful starting point in seeking a definition of what constitutes a "single claim" for purposes of Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) is, as always, the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Although the High Court has declined to "attempt any definitive resolution of the meaning of what constitutes a claim for relief," it, nevertheless, has stated that, "a complaint asserting only one legal right, even if seeking multiple remedies for the alleged violation of that right, states a single claim for relief." Liberty Mutual, 424 U.S. at 743 n.4.

 In his complaint, Kapossy asserted several theories of recovery based upon his allegations that the termination of his employment by McGraw-Hill was wrongful. In his present motion, Kapossy seeks entry of final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b) of this court's Order entering partial summary judgment in favor of defendant on: (1) Kapossy's claim for breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and, (2) Kapossy's claim for breach of an implied contract by termination without cause.

 As if to highlight the "uncertainty" surrounding the "multiple claim" requirement of Fed. R. Civ. 54(b), plaintiff simply assumes, without any discussion whatsoever, that his is an action involving "multiple claims." Brief on Behalf of Plaintiff at 3. It is not.

 To understand why this action involves only a "single claim," it is useful to review what are not "multiple claims." Claims cannot be "multiple claims," within the meaning of Rule 54(b), "if they are 'so closely related that they would fall afoul of the rule against splitting claims if brought separately.'" Sussex Drug, 920 F.2d at 1154 (quoting Local P-171, Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen v. Thompson Farms Co., 642 F.2d 1065, 1070-71 (7th Cir. 1981)); see also CMAX, Inc. v. Drewry Photocolor Corp., 295 F.2d 695, 697 (9th Cir. 1961) ("The word 'claim' in Rule 54(b) refers to a set of facts giving rise to legal rights in the claimant, not to legal theories of recovery based upon those facts."). Nor are there "multiple claims" unless "the claimant could . . . recover separately on each claim." Minority Police Officers Ass'n of South Bend v. City of South Bend, Ind., 721 F.2d 197, 199 (7th Cir. 1983).

 Where, as here, a plaintiff seeks interlocutory appeal of an order granting summary judgment to the defendant, the appropriate inquiry is whether the remaining counts of the complaint will require proof of the same facts as those counts which were dismissed on summary judgment, in other words, whether these counts share a common "'core of operative facts,'" Sussex Drug, 920 F.2d at 1155 (quoting, with approval, Oyster v. Johns-Manville Corp., 568 F. Supp. 83, 86 (E.D. Pa. 1983), appeal dismissed, 770 F.2d 1066 (3d Cir. 1985)). The Third Circuit, therefore, requires district courts to focus on the factual commonality between the issues for which Rule 54(b) appeal is sought and those remaining before the district court. Id. Naturally, this inquiry subsumes within it the rule that a plaintiff who sets forth numerous legal theories in support of only one possible recovery states only one claim for relief. Indiana Harbor Belt R. Co. v. American Cyanamid Co., 860 F.2d 1441, 1445 (7th Cir. 1988). Put another way, a single set of interrelated facts, even though it supports several causes of action, will usually constitute only a single "claim."

 Furthermore, even if this court were not convinced that Kapossy's "multi-count" complaint presents only a "single claim" within the meaning of Rule 54(b), it still would not choose to certify as "final" any portion of the summary judgment order of March 21, 1996. There ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.