Franklin et al v. Dana Holding Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that the Court declines to adopt the Magistrate Judge's 26 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION and the 24 MOTION for Joinder in Support of Motion for Rule 54(B) Certification filed by Rockwell Automation, and the 22 MOTION for Entry of Judgment under Rule 54(b) Certification of October 10, 2014 Order filed filed by Eaton Corporation are DENIED. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 1/12/2016. (JLC)
2016 Jan-12 PM 03:00
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DONNA FRANKLIN, as Personal
Representative of the Estate of RAY )
) Case No.: 2:11-CV-2731-VEH-SGC
CORPORATION, ET AL.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This diversity action, by Donna Franklin (“Franklin”) against Dana Holding
Corporation (“Dana”), Eaton Corporation (“Eaton”), Rockwell Automation,
successor by merger to Allen-Bradley Co., LLC1 (“Rockwell”), et al. (collectively,
“Defendants”) alleges that Defendants manufactured asbsestos that caused Ray
Franklin’s asbestosis and, ultimately, his death. Now pending before the court are a
Report and Recommendation on motions by Rockwell and Eaton to make the
Rockwell was sued under an incorrect name. The correct listing should have been
“Rockwell Manufacturing Co.,” although Rockwell has been succeeded by Flowserve US, Inc.
(“Flowserve”). Since Flowserve refers to itself as Rockwell, see doc. 24 at 1, the court will as
MDL’s grant of summary judgment in their favor final under Rule 54(b). For the
following reasons, the court declines to adopt the Report and Recommendation,
and the motions will be DENIED.
I. Procedural Background
This case was removed to federal court on July 29, 2011. (Doc. 1). While the
complaint, as filed in state court, included both worker’s compensation claims and
asbestos injury claims against incompletely diverse defendants, the state trial judge
severed the worker’s compensation claims from the asbestos claims. (Doc. 1). This
knocked out the non-diverse defendants, so removal was proper thereafter. (Doc.
1). But when the case got to this court containing only issues of asbestos injury, the
Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered it transferred to MDL 875 in the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 16). Almost four years passed before the
case alighted in the Northern District of Alabama on April 7, 2015. (Doc. 19).
In July of 2015, Eaton and Rockwell informed the court that summary
judgment had been granted by MDL 875 in their favor, and they requested that the
order be made final pursuant to Rule 54(b). (Docs. 22 & 24). Franklin did not
respond to either of these motions. The magistrate judge who was then presiding
over the case issued a Report and Recommendation (”R&R”) recommending that
the motions be granted. (Doc. 26). Franklin filed a response to the R&R clarifying
that she still opposed the grant of summary judgment on which the Rule 54(b)
motion was predicated, but she supported granting the instant motion. (Doc. 26).
Rule 54(b) provides, in relevant part: “when multiple parties are involved,
the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all,
claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason
for delay.” FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b). “Otherwise, any order or other decision, however
designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of
fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties.”
Id. “Rule 54(b) relaxes ‘the former general practice that, in multiple claims actions,
all the claims had to be finally decided before an appeal could be entertained from
a final decision upon any of them.’” Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., 135 S.Ct.
897, 902 (2015) (quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 434
(1956)). The Rule is “thus aimed to augment [...] appeal opportunity.” Gelboim,
135 S.Ct. at 903.
A court must conduct a two-step analysis to test the propriety of a Rule
54(b) order. Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7 (1980). First,
the court must determine that the predicate judgment is “final.” Id. “[W]ithout
question,” In re Southeast Banking Corp., 69 F.3d 1539, 1550 (11th Cir. 1995), a
complete grant of summary judgment against select parties is a final judgment
within the meaning of Rule 54(b). Cf. id. (dismissing an entire complaint against
select parties is final judgment).
Second, the district judge must “determine whether there is any just reason
for delay.” Id. at 8. In this case, all of the pressure is on the second prong, but
neither the parties nor the magistrate have conducted any analysis to suggest why
there is no just reason for delay. “A district court's bare statement that there is no
just reason for delay does not suffice,” Ebrahimi v. City of Huntsville Bd. of Educ.,
114 F.3d 162, 167 (11th Cir. 1997), so neither does a party’s. See 10 CHARLES
ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER, & MARY KAY KANE, FEDERAL PRACTICE &
PROCEDURE § 2659 at 105 (4th ed. 2014) (quoting Panichella v. Penn. R. Co., 252
F.2d 452, 455 (3d Cir. 1958) (“54(b) orders should not be entered routinely or as a
courtesy or accommodation to counsel.”)).
Rather, the district court must consider the equities of the situation in light of
judicial administrative interests, see Curtiss-Wright, 466 U.S. at 8, only issuing
54(b) orders “conservatively.” Ehbrahimi, 114 F.3d at 166. And it cannot
adequately consider the issue without a showing by the moving party that some
hardship would result unless the normal rule—delay of appeal until resolution of
the entire case—is set aside. Burlington Northern R. Co. v. Bair, 754 F.2d 799, 800
(8th Cir. 1985); accord Vann v. Citicorp Sav. of Ill., 891 F.2d 1507, 1509–10 (11th
Cir. 1990) (reserving 54(b) orders for the “infrequent harsh case”). 2
Here, the extent of Eaton’s analysis on step two is “the October 10, 2014
Order held that Eaton was entitled to judgment as a matter of law and disposed of
all claims against Eaton. As such, there is no just reason for delay.” (Doc. 22 at
3–4). This conflates step one with step two and is insufficient. Rockwell’s analysis
suffers from the same flaw. (See Doc. 24). The magistrate judge merely stated that
“[h]aving examined the record, the undersigned is unable to discern a just reason to
delay entry of final judgment.” (Doc. 26 at 2). Because this is only a boilerplate
recitation of 54(b)’s requirement, it is insufficient to justify granting the motion.
See Ebrahimi, 114 F.3d at 167.
There are two prerequisites to the grant of a 54(b) motion, and there is no
showing sufficient to satisfy the second prong in this case. Therefore, the court
declines to adopt the magistrate judge’s Report and Recommendation. Eaton and
The court is mindful that, in Curtiss-Wright, the Supreme Court cautioned against
using the “infrequent harsh case” standard as an inflexible rule, instead vesting the district courts
with discretion to issue 54(b) orders. 446 U.S. at 9–10. Since that case was decided, however, the
Eleventh Circuit has endorsed the view that the party’s hardship should inform the district
court’s discretion. See Southeast Banking, 69 F.3d at 1547.
Rockwell’s motions are DENIED.3
DONE and ORDERED this 12th day of January 2016.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
This denial is without prejudice to their ability to file a Rule 54(b) motion that satisfies
its second requirement.
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