ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES
Saul I. Ruman James J. Neath
David W. Holub Amoco Oil Company
David M. Hamacher Chicago, Illinois
Evan E. Steger
Richard P. Komyatte Indianapolis, Indiana
Thomas F. Ryan
John W. Barce Timothy E. Kapshandy
Kentland, Indiana Chicago, Illinois
ATTORNEYS FOR INTERVENORS
JOSEPH & DORTHEA ZRNCHIK, ET AL.
Larry G. Evans
William F. Satterlee, III
F. Joseph Jaskowiak
Jack A. Kramer
Patrick J. McManama
Crown Point, Indiana
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
JAMES MARTIN, MARY ROMAN, ) ROBERT O'DROBINAK and HENRY ) CORNELIUS, Individually and ) on Behalf of All Others Similarly ) Situated, et. al., ) 56A03-9409-CV-333 ) in the Court of Appeals Appellant/Class ) Representatives Below, ) 56S03-9804-CV-242 ) in the Supreme Court v. ) ) AMOCO OIL COMPANY, ) ) Appellee/Defendant Below. )
SHEPARD, Chief Justice.
The Court of Appeals expressed doubt in this case about
whether an order certifying a class action is interlocutory in
nature or final upon entry and thus appealable as of right. We
hold it is interlocutory.
On February 1, 1991, appellant Robert O'Drobinak filed suit
against Amoco Oil Company on behalf of himself and 500 residents of
Whiting, Indiana. These claims originated from a notice from Amoco
to the residents which warned of the possibility of underground oil
migration onto their properties. Both Amoco and the plaintiffs
moved to certify the class under Indiana Trial Rule 23(B)(1) on
January 23, 1992. The court granted the motion on the same day.
Eight days later, attorney Richard Komyatte entered an
appearance for a group of individuals who were at that time
pursuing a separate suit in federal court based on the same alleged
oil migration.See footnote
On February 3, 1992, these individuals moved to vacate the
class certification order. The court denied this and similar
subsequent motions.See footnote
On March 25, 1992, Komyatte's clients filed
a praecipe with the trial court clerk, ostensibly to appeal the
class certification order, but they did not file the record with
the Court of Appeals or otherwise pursue the appeal. Instead, they
apparently chose to participate in the litigation as members of the
class. Nearly a year and seven months later, the jury returned
verdicts of not liable on all counts. The court entered final
judgment on December 14, 1993. The trial court later granted
plaintiffs' motions to correct error as to one claim, but it
largely left the jury verdict intact.
On appeal, plaintiffs claimed, in part, that the trial court erred in certifying the class under T.R. 23(B)(1). Writing for the Court of Appeals, Judge Garrard held that they had knowingly waived their right to present the issue on appeal. Martin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139, 145 (Ind. App. 1997). In so deciding, the court observed that, at the time the order was entered, Indiana law
clearly stated that class certification orders were final and
appealable. Id. (citing American Cyanamid Co. v. Stephen, 600
N.E.2d 1387 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992)). It held that appellants had
relinquished the opportunity for appeal that they possessed in
1992. It was correct to hold that at the time relevant to this
appeal, class certification orders were final and appealable.
In coming to its conclusion, however, the court declined to
ground its decision on the premise that class certification orders
remain today final interlocutory orders, stating: "it is not clear
after our supreme court's decision in Berry v. Huffman, 643 N.E.2d
327 (Ind. 1994) whether class certification orders are final and
appealable orders at the present time." Martin, 679 N.E.2d at 144.
We granted transfer to clarify whether Berry, decided after the
time relevant to this appeal, changed the law in this regard.
The Court of Appeals pondered whether this case could be distinguished from Berry on the ground that the trial court's judgment in Berry dealt with a motion for partial summary judgement under T.R. 56(C) while in the instant case the trial court granted motions for certification under T.R. 23(B)(1). For the purpose of determining the appealability of a trial court order, however, this distinction is without significance.
Berry v. Huffman was not a case about summary judgment or about class actions. It addressed the general appealability of orders under Trial Rules 54 and 56. As we said then:
[T]he certification requirements of Trial Rules 54(B) and 56(C) supersede the distinct and definite branch doctrine. Judgments or orders as to less than all of the issues, claims, or parties remain interlocutory until expressly certified as final by the trial judge. To the extent that Richards and other cases support the distinct and definite branch doctrine, they are overruled. Were we to hold otherwise, litigants would again be left to guess whether or not a given order was appealable. This is precisely the situation that T.R. 54(B) and 56(C) were drafted and adopted to prevent.
Berry, 643 N.E.2d at 329 (citations omitted). This logic applies
with equal force to class certification orders and, indeed, to all
orders or judgments which are not "final" under the requirements of
Trial Rule 54(B). Were this not so, the rule would undoubtedly be
swallowed by its own exceptions. The distinct and different branch
doctrine, superseded by our adoption of the Indiana Rules of Trial
Procedure as explicitly stated in Berry, would live on in practice
if not in word.
A judgment or order as to less than all of the issues, claims,
or parties in an action may become final only by meeting the
requirements of T.R. 54(B). These requirements are that the trial
court, in writing, expressly determine that there is no just reason
for delay and, in writing, expressly direct entry of judgment.
T.R. 54(B); Berry, 643 N.E.2d at 329.
We adopted Rules 54(B) and 56(C), based on the federal model,
in an effort to provide greater certainty to litigating parties and
to strike an appropriate balance between the interests in allowing
for speedy review of certain judgments and in avoiding the
inefficiencies of piecemeal appeals. Berry, 643 N.E.2d at 329
(citing 3 William F. Harvey, Indiana Practice: Rules of Procedure
Annotated § 54.2 at 480-82 (2nd ed. 1988 & Supp. 1993)).
Unsatisfactory experiences with the common law "distinct and
different branch of litigation" doctrine, which often lead to
inefficient and unjust results, had much to do with the change.
Id. at 328 (citing as examples Guthrie v. Blakely, 234 Ind. 167,
125 N.E.2d 437 (1955); Washington v. Chrysler Corp., 137 Ind. App.
482, 200 N.E.2d 883 (1964).)
The formalistic (but bright line) approach to which we now
adhere removes uncertainties about when a party should appeal, thus
minimizing the risk that an appeal will be dismissed as premature
or that the right to appeal will be inadvertently lost. Further,
the rules place the discretion of deciding when the facts indicate
that a judgment should be deemed final in the hands of the
individual best able to make such decisions--the trial judge. Id.
To the extent that Martin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139 (Ind. App. 1997) and other cases support the continuation of the
distinct and definite branch doctrine, they are overruled.See footnote
the trial court certifies its T.R. 23 determination as final under
T.R. 54(B), it remains interlocutory. As we stated in Berry: "Were
we to hold otherwise, litigants would again be left to guess
whether or not a given order was appealable. This is precisely the
situation that T.R. 54(B) and 56(C) were drafted and adopted to
prevent." Berry, 643 N.E.2d at 329.
The Court of Appeals properly disposed of the claims in this appeal, and we summarily affirm on each claim. Ind. Appellate Rule 11(B)(3).See footnote 4 The trial court is affirmed in part and reversed in
part in accord with the mandate of the Court of Appeals.
Dickson, Sullivan, Selby, and Boehm, JJ., concur.
The opinion or memorandum decision of the Court of Appeals shall
be final except where a petition to transfer has been granted by
the Supreme Court. If transfer be granted, the judgment and
opinion . . . of the Court of Appeals shall thereupon be vacated
and held for naught, except as to any portion thereof which is
expressly adopted and incorporated by reference by the Supreme
Court, and further, except where summarily affirmed by the Supreme
Often, as in this instance, this Court grants transfer to address only one of several issues addressed by a Court of Appeals' opinion. When this occurs, we use the term "summarily affirm" to indicate that we decline to review the remainder of the opinion. McGowan v. State, 674 N.E.2d 174 (Ind. 1996). In essence, we partially deny transfer on these issues. Id. (citing Kimberlin v. DeLong, 637 N.E.2d 121, 123 (Ind. 1994)). In contrast, the term "expressly adopt" indicates that we accept the reasoning of a Court of Appeals' opinion as our own.
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