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What is an appealable judgment or order?

California Code of Civil Procedure (hereafter "CCP") 904.1(a) provides basic ground rules for what is appealable.  The statute codifies the "one final judgment" rule.   See CCP 904.1(a)(1).  The rule provides that a judgment is final and therefore appealable when it leaves nothing to be determined between the parties but enforcement or compliance with its terms.  Sullivan v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 288, 304.  

A new case reinforces the distinction between appealable and nonappealable orders.  In St. Joe Minerals Corp. v. Zurich Insurance Co. (4th District Court of Appeal, Division 3, Case no. G018280, filed September 28, 1999), 1999 Daily Journal D.A.R. 10181, the Court dismissed Zurich's appeal from a minute order granting summary adjudication determining Zurich's duty to defend St. Joe against EPA administrative actions.  The Court in St. Joe held that such a minute order was not appealable.  D.A.R. at 10183-84.  The Court also declined to treat the "appeal" as a collateral matter, an exception to the one final judgment rule, or as an injunction (CCP 904.1(a)(6)), or to "save the appeal" by treating it as a writ petition.  D.A.R. at 10184-10188.  

The Court in St. Joe explained that the "one final judgment" rule is not necessary to a functioning judicial system, such as the time limits for filing notice of appeal under California Rules of Court 2, 3.  D.A.R. at 10182.  Instead, the rule represents a legislative determination to allocate public resources and avoid the oppressiveness and cost of "piecemeal" disposition and review.  D.A.R. at 10182 (citing 9 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (4th Ed. 1997), "Appeal," 58 at 113).  In this particular case, since adjudication finding a duty to defend by an insurance carrier left open the possibility that ultimately there would be no finding of coverage in this insurance litigation, "there will still be 'miles to go' before there will be a final judgment from which the insurer can appeal."  D.A.R. at 10184.  Moreover, the California Supreme Court's ruling in Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara (1994) 7 Cal.4th 725 ended the practice of deeming causes of action "severed" from the rest of the case.  7 Cal.4th at 743.

The Court in St. Joe expressed its strong distaste for attempting to "cut in line" ahead of other appellate litigants:  "The rules of appellate procedure should not be bent just because two well-funded litigants can generate a tremendous amount of paper at the trial level.  Of course, the winners of this encounter are not before us, at least directly.  They are the many other litigants who have appeals in this court who will not have their matters bumped back in the queue because we bent the rules so that a fraction of an insurance coverage matter could go ahead of them."  D.A.R. at 10181.  

Certain orders are appealable.  Orders after final judgments, orders granting motion to quash, orders to stay or dismiss based on forum non conveniens, orders granting new trial or denying JNOV, orders granting preliminary injunctions, orders discharging or refusing to discharge or granting a right to attach order, orders appointing a receiver, interlocutory judgments determining the rights and interests of parties to an action for partition and directing that partition to be made, interlocutory judgments, orders, or decree made in an action to redeem real or personal property, determining the right to redeem and directing an accounting, orders made appealable by the Probate or Family Code are all specifically listed in CCP 904.1(a)(2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10) as appealable.  Each of these orders share the essential characteristics of a final judgment:  they are matters that leave the trial court with nothing left to do but enforce the judgment or order.

Orders denying statutory motions to vacate (CCP 473, 473.5, 663, for example), orders denying a motion to vacate based on extrinsic fraud or mistake, and orders for payment of temporary child or spousal support, and orders modifying spousal or child support are also appealable for the same reasons.  Elsea v. Saberi (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 625, 628, (order granting statutory motion to vacate); Hollister Convalescent Hosp., Inc. v. Rico (1975) 15 Cal.3d 660, 663 ( CCP 663 motion); Generale Bank Nederland v. Eyes of the Beholder Ltd. (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 1384, 1394 (order denying CCP 473 motion); Carlson v. Eassa (1997) 54 Cal.App.4th 684, 691 (denial of motion to set aside void judgment); Cope v. Cope (1964) 230 Cal.App.2d 218, 228-229 (denial of motion to set aside based on extrinsic fraud or mistake); Marriage of Skelley (1976) 18 Cal.3d 365, 368 (temporary support orders and orders for attorneys fees); Marriage of Padilla (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 1212, 1216 (modifying spousal support); City & County of San Francisco v. Stanley (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 1724, 1727 (modifying child support).

There is a split of authority whether an order denying a CCP 1008 motion for reconsideration is appealable.  One view allows the appeal if the underlying order was appealable and the motion for reconsideration was based on new or different facts. Blue Mountain Develop. Co. v. Carville (1982) 132 Cal.App.3d 1005, 1010-1011.  

The contrary view is that orders denying reconsideration are analogous to nonappealable orders denying a new trial or a motion to vacate, and thus should also be treated as nonappealable. A contrary rule would permit two appeals from the same decision, effectively affording an unwarranted extension of time to appeal. Rojes v. Riverside Gen. Hosp. (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 1151, 1160-1161; LiMandri v. Judkins (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 326, 333, fn. 1; Crotty v. Trader (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 765, 769; Hughey v. City of Hayward (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 206, 210; Alioto Fish Co., Ltd. v. Alioto, supra, 27 Cal.App.4th at 1679-1680 (order nonappealable under either line of authority because reconsideration motion not based on new or different facts); Wickware v. Tanner (1997) 53 Cal.App.4th 570, 574(same).  The trend seems to be against treating such orders as appealable. 

Orders granting demurrer without leave to amend or orders granting summary judgment are NOT appealable. The appeal is from the subsequently-entered order of dismissal or judgment. Hill v. City of Long Beach (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 1684, 1695 (demurrer); CCP 437c(l) (summary judgment).  

Orders granting attorney fees and/or costs are separately appealable since they are post judgment orders.  Norman I. Krug Real Estate Investments, Inc. v. Praszker (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 35, 46. So if you are appealing both the judgment and post-judgment order granting costs and/or fees, you need to appeal both separately.

BUT if judgment awards fees and costs to prevailing party, leaves amount to be determined later, there is one appeal from both-"[W]hen a judgment awards costs and fees to a prevailing party and provides for the later determination of the amounts, the notice of appeal subsumes any later order setting the amounts of the award." Grant v. List & Lathrop (1992) 2 Cal.App.4th 993, 998.

As the St. Joe case shows, courts will not hesitate to dismiss an appeal if it is not from a final judgment or appealable order.  The Court there was approaching oral argument when it requested supplemental briefing on the issue of whether the minute order was appealable and whether circumstances justified "saving" the appeal by treating it as a writ.  D.A.R. at 10184.  Therefore counsel must be careful to make sure that the adverse ruling they wish to appeal is a final judgment or appealable order.

 
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