Civil procedure: Appellate review: One final judgment rule: Final judgment: Interlocutory review: Dismissal: Prejudice: Notice of appeal:
To avoid piecemeal appeals, the “one final judgment” rule ordinarily limits appellate review to trial court judgments that finally dispose of all issues. (Kurwa I, 57 Cal.4th at p. 1101.) The parties in this case attempted to circumvent the rule to obtain what was, in effect, interlocutory review of a trial court’s partial order of dismissal by agreeing to dismiss the remainder of their claims without prejudice and waiving the statutes of limitations. We held in Kurwa I that this attempt was unavailing. We concluded that the trial court’s judgment dismissing the remaining claims without prejudice was not a final disposition of those claims, but instead held them “in abeyance for possible future litigation.” (Id. at p. 1100.)
In the wake of our decision in Kurwa I, Kurwa has made two attempts to secure a final and appealable judgment. He first asked the trial court to vacate its order of dismissal and the underlying stipulation. Failing that, he sought to dismiss his defamation claim with prejudice, which would finally dispose of the claim. Kurwa is, however, powerless to require Kislinger to do the same with respect to the defamation claim raised in the cross-complaint, and Kislinger has no incentive to assist Kurwa in his efforts to appeal an order that had been entered in Kislinger’s favor. Kislinger argues (and the Court of Appeal agreed) that unless and until Kislinger also chooses to dismiss his defamation claim, there can be no final and appealable judgment.
Kurwa’s appeal fails for a more basic reason: There is still no trial court judgment from which Kurwa could appeal. The 2010 order was not a final judgment because it disposed of less than all of the causes of action. (Sullivan v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 288, 304 ["A judgment is final “when it terminates the litigation between the parties on the merits of the case and leaves nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined." Finality in this sense not only makes a judicial determination a judgment, it also makes that judgment appealable.”]; U.S. Financial v. Sullivan (1974) 37 Cal.App.3d 5, 11 [it is improper for the trial court to enter a judgment of dismissal if some causes of action remain pending].)
Kurwa’s dismissal with prejudice of his defamation claims was entered on the docket by the court clerk, without the trial court’s involvement. It did not result in the entry of a new trial court judgment that finally disposed of all claims (or at least all of the losing party’s claims) in the action. Nor could Kurwa’s dismissal have retroactively altered the character of the trial court’s 2010 judgment. And even if Kurwa’s dismissal with prejudice could have retroactively altered the character of the trial court’s 2010 judgment, the Court of Appeal is correct that the time for appealing that judgment has long since expired. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104(a)(1) [a notice of appeal from a superior court judgment must be filed within 60 days of the notice of entry of judgment or 180 days after judgment, whichever is earlier].)
There is, as we see it, no way for Kurwa to proceed with his appeal unless and until the trial court takes action to render a judgment that is actually final and appealable. Of course, Kurwa has previously asked the trial court to do just that, and the trial court refused, professing lack of jurisdiction to vacate its earlier order dismissing the defamation claims without prejudice. We agree with Kurwa that the trial court was mistaken.
It stands to reason that if the trial court has not entered a judgment that is final and appealable, it retains the power to render one. This was the unstated assumption underlying our disposition in Kurwa I, supra, 57 Cal.4th at page 1107, in which we directed the Court of Appeal to dismiss plaintiff’s appeal as premature, without ever suggesting that plaintiff might have lost the right to appeal altogether. The confusion in this case appears to arise from the fact that the trial court has already dismissed the claims in question once, albeit without prejudice. Kislinger argues that this means that the trial court can no longer act in the case, even to issue a judgment finally disposing of the defamation claim Kurwa has now dismissed with prejudice. For this unlikely proposition, Kislinger relies on Harris v. Billings (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1396 (Harris), but Harris lends no support. (…) Regardless of whether Harris was correctly decided—a question we do not decide here—it is distinguishable.
(…) We therefore now make explicit what was implicit in our earlier decision: Because the trial court did not render a judgment that was final and appealable, it retains power to act in the case. That power includes the authority to vacate the defective 2010 judgment and the parties’ underlying stipulation. Once the parties and the court have disposed of the remaining defamation counts—either by dismissing them with prejudice (as Kurwa already has for the cause of action in his complaint) or pursuing them to judgment—the trial court can, and should, issue a final judgment from which Kurwa can appeal.
(Cal.S.C., Dec. 18, 2017, Kurwa v. Kislinger, S234617).
Un appel n'est possible que contre un jugement final.
Pour éviter des appels fractionnés, la règle du jugement final ne permet d'appeler, au niveau de la première instance, que des jugements qui disposent de l'ensemble des conclusions (de toutes les parties, y compris les conclusions reconventionnelles). Dans la présente affaire, les parties ont tenté de contourner dite règle en manipulant diverses institutions procédurales : ainsi de l'abandon par une des parties (Kurwa) de certaines de ses prétentions, obtenant ainsi un jugement de première instance constatant et consacrant dit abandon, tout en réservant la possibilité pour la partie de faire valoir ultérieurement ces prétentions abandonnées. Un tel jugement, qui laissait la possibilité d'une nouvelle procédure, n'était pas un jugement final. Il n'était de la sorte pas susceptible d'appel. Puis Kurwa a encore tenté notamment d'abandonner ses prétentions (sans possibilité de les renouveler) afin d'obtenir un jugement final, mais comme son adversaire n'en faisait pas de même s'agissant de ses propres prétentions, la tentative a échoué : dit abandon a été enregistré sur le rôle par le greffier, sans implication du Tribunal. Aucun jugement final ne résultait de cet enregistrement. Cet abandon n'a en outre pas pour effet de modifier le jugement antérieur précité (qui laissait donc la possibilité d'une nouvelle procédure).
Cependant, dans tous les cas, la cour de première instance se doit de rendre un jugement final, qui pourra être entrepris par voie d'appel. Que Kurwa ait renoncé à ses prétentions sans possibilité de les renouveler n'empêche nullement dite cour de juger de manière finale.