Blog

Gelboim v. Bank of America - U.S. Supreme Court Allows Immediate Appeals in MDL Cases

Photo of Brian Humphrey

In the recent unanimous opinion in Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a plaintiff in a consolidated federal multi-district litigation (MDL) case had the right to immediately appeal the dismissal to the U.S. Court of Appeals, despite the fact that other MDL claims were still pending. This opinion, written by Justice Ginsburg, resolved a circuit split, provided some much needed clarity to MDL plaintiffs on the timing of appeals, and helped guarantee some mass tort plaintiffs a speedy appeal.

Generally, outside of a few narrow circumstances that are defined by statute, a party may not appeal a trial court's ruling until the judgment is final, and there is only a final judgment once all claims of all parties are resolved. In a case with multiple plaintiffs, this means that even if all of one plaintiff's claims are disposed, that plaintiff cannot appeal until all of the other plaintiffs' claims are also resolved. Also, there is a 30-day deadline to file an appeal in federal court that is triggered by the entry of a final judgment, so it is important to know when the court's judgment is final.

This creates some confusion in multi-district litigation. In an MDL case, numerous cases brought by different plaintiffs in different federal courts that involve common issues, such as in a mass products liability situation, are transferred to one court (the "transferee court") and temporarily consolidated for the purpose of conducting discovery and pre-trial motions. If a case is not settled or dismissed through pre-trial motions, it is ultimately transferred back to the original court (the "transferor court") for a separate trial.

While MDL cases are consolidated for pre-trial purposes, they are still separate lawsuits brought by separate plaintiffs. The confusion arises from the situation where the transferee court enters an order that dismisses all of the claims of some plaintiffs while allowing claims belonging to other plaintiffs to go forward. Essentially, for purposes of determining whether there is a final judgment allowing an appeal, the courts are divided on whether a consolidated MDL case is treated as a bunch of separate cases or one big case. The Ninth, Tenth, and Federal Circuits have followed the "one big case" approach and held that a transferee court's ruling disposing of only some plaintiffs' cases is not a final judgment because it does not dispose of all of the claims in the MDL. The Third, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits, on the other hand, have treated each transferred case as a separate case, holding that any ruling disposing of all of a given plaintiff's claims is a final, appealable judgment as to that plaintiff.

In Gelboim, which came out of an MDL dealing with the LIBOR banking scandal, the trial court entered an order dismissing an entire class of claims from the MDL, which had the effect of dismissing the entire cases of a number of plaintiffs. The Second Circuit, from which the Gelboim case was appealed, followed the Ninth, Tenth, and Federal Circuits' approach and dismissed the plaintiffs' appeal, holding that there was no final judgment. A unanimous Supreme Court reversed the Second Circuit and held that the more sensible approach was to treat each transferred case as separate and hold that each transferred case is appealable once all of the claims in that transferred case are disposed. Writing for the Court, Justice Ginsburg noted the "quandary" that plaintiffs were placed in under the Second Circuit approach, wherein they would either have to file an immediate appeal which could be dismissed for lack of a final judgment, or could wait until the entire MDL case is over, which could result in missing the 30-day deadline and the permanent loss of their right to appeal.

The Supreme Court's sensible ruling has cleared up a great deal of confusion and properly allows plaintiffs whose claims are dismissed by the MDL transferor court to appeal immediately rather than wait for their day in court.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Awards & Recognition

  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

    Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

Get Your Free Case Review 713.587.9668

Let Us Help You Today! Request a Free Consultation

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented nearly 100 victims who suffered personal injuries and damages to property from a large fire and explosion resulting in a settlement of more than $50 million. The firm served as lead lawyers on the steering committee in this litigation.

  • $80 Million Personal Injury Large Plant Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 270 plaintiffs', taking a lead role in the plaintiffs' steering committee, who suffered injuries in a large plant explosion resulting in a settlement of nearly $80 million.

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Plant Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 45 personal injury victims in a plant fire and explosion, serving on the plaintiffs' steering committee, concluding with a settlement of more than $50 million.

  • $22+ Million Personal Injury Work Site Accident

    The firm prevailed in a personal injury trial for a worksite injury client with the jury returning a verdict and resulting in a judgment of over $22 million for the firm's client.

  • $12 Million Auto Accident 18-Wheeler Collision

    The firm successfully achieved a $12 million settlement for the family of a man who died in an 18 wheeler collision.

  • $30 Million Personal Injury Burn Victims

    The firm prevailed on behalf of three burn victims with settlements totaling nearly $30 million.

Our Record Of Success.

When you are hurt and you choose a law firm to represent you in court or at the negotiation table, you need to carefully consider the firm's record.

More Success Stories