Bowers v. Orange County

Second DCA

Bowers v. Orange County
6th DCA

5/5/23, Chief Judge Sasso
Topics: Appealable Order

This appeal involved what Chief Judge Sasso describes as a “jurisdictional quirk” that resulted in the appealed order being considered a non-final non-appealable order.

Bowers was on his fourth amended complaint. He was suing Orange County for trespass, private nuisance, inverse condemnation, and declaratory relief challenging the existence of a prescriptive easement. A series of three “final judgments” were issued by the trial court, but when one examines which counts were resolved by each order, there was at least one count that remained unaddressed.

Bowers, in the trial court, opined that there was no true and valid final, appealable judgment, and he wanted a final judgment (either because he was unsatisfied with something in the “final judgment” or because he was fully satisfied but feared that the trial court had only given him a non- final judgment that might be difficult to enforce). The trial court apparently disagreed and thought that its three final judgments were final enough, so the order for a fourth final judgment was denied. Bowers appealed the denial of the motion for entry of a final judgment.

Orange County argued that the tort claims that were unmentioned in the final orders had been disposed by a final, appealable judgment due to a March 2020 joint pretrial statement and a March 2020 notice of settlement that indicated that the tort claims had been settled.

Bowers disagreed, arguing that a notice of settlement does not equate to a stipulation of dismissal under Rule 1.420, so the tort claims had not been resolved by a final order.

The DCA noted that an appealable final judgment ends the litigation between the parties and disposes of all issues. Also, in multicount complaints, as long as one count remains for disposition, an appellate court lacks jurisdiction to consider other “interrelated counts.”

The DCA stated—without analysis—that the complaint presented “seven interrelated counts,” so failing to dispose of even one would render any judgment a non-final non-appealable order.

The DCA agreed with Bowers that the trial court had not filed any order disposing of one or more of the tort claims. Even though the record showed that those claims were settled, no order followed. While Rule 1.420 “provides a past for disposition of claims by way of stipulation, and without the need for court order, the parties also did not file a stipulation of dismissal in this case.” The DCA declined the county’s argument to look beyond the lack of a formal stipulation of dismissal signed by all parties because that is what is required by rule 1.420 to dispose of the claims by settlement without court order.

Because there was no reviewable final order, Bowers’ appeal was dismissed (which may not have been the relief he was looking for since he was the one who appealed; there was no discussion of whether the appeal should, perhaps, be recategorized as a petition for a writ of mandamus requiring the court to enter a final order, but hopefully the DCA’s opinion will be all the urging that the parties need to file a stipulation of dismissal of the settled tort claims or to otherwise get the trial court to enter a final order resolving the settled claims). 100053_i.pdf

Terry P. Roberts
Director of Appellate Practice Fischer Redavid PLLC
PDF Version

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