McCullough v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company: When a motion for summary judgment is not amended to address claims alleged after filing of the summary judgment motion, a ruling granting summary judgment is a non-final judgment.
In McCullough v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company [Ms. 2150459], — So.3d — (Ala.Civ.App. 2016), Jerry McCullough appealed from a summary judgment entered by the trial court in favor of Allstate. Allstate’s motion sought summary judgment in its favor on all claims contained in McCullough’s Complaint, including breach of contract, bad faith, violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., fraud, defamation, harassment, and invasion of privacy. Allstate’s summary judgment motion was based on its assertion that McCullough’s claims arose out of a matter that had already been adjudicated in federal court, and ultimately settled. Thereafter McCullough filed a motion for declaratory judgment action asking the court to make a determination as to whether McCullough’s claims in the matter at issue were subject to the prior settlement agreement. The trial court heard oral arguments and granted Allstate’s motion for summary judgment. McCullough appealed.
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals determined that before it could respond to McCullough’s appeal, it must first determine whether in this instance the summary judgment ruling was a final judgment that would support an appeal. Under Alabama law, a party cannot appeal a non-final judgment. See Robinson v. Computer Servicenters, Inc., 360 So.2d 299 (Ala. 1978). A non-final judgment has been generally defined as a ruling that disposes of fewer than all claims or relates to fewer than all parties in an action. Wilson v. Wilson, 736 So.2d 633, 634 (Ala.Civ.App. 1999); see also Ala. R. Civ. Proc. 54(b).
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals found that McCullough’s motion for declaratory judgment was effectively an amended complaint. Allstate asked the trial court to deny the declaratory judgment motion but did not supplement or amend its summary judgment motion to include the denial request. Therefore, when the trial court granted summary judgment in Allstate’s favor, it did not dispose of the claim for declaratory judgment, which remained pending, resulting in a non-final judgment that did not support an appeal. See Baugus v. City of Florence, 968 So.3d 529, 531 (Ala. 2007).