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First National Bank of Layton v. Palmer

Supreme Court of Utah

August 16, 2018

First National Bank of Layton, Appellee,
v.
Ray William Palmer, Appellant.

          Seventh District, Monticello The Honorable Lyle R. Anderson No. 090700136

         On Direct Appeal

          Matthew C. Barneck, Brian D. Bolinder, Wayne Z. Bennett, Salt Lake City, for appellee

          Craig C. Halls, Blanding, for appellant

          Justice Himonas authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Pearce, and Justice Petersen joined.

          OPINION

          HIMONAS, JUSTICE.

         INTRODUCTION

         ¶1 In this case we are asked to decide whether the district court abused its discretion in denying Ray Palmer's motion to amend his counterclaim and to join a party. Although the parties present this case as an appeal from a final order pursuant to Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), the district court's rule 54(b) certification does not make the necessary express determination that there is no just reason for delay. Additionally, the district court fails to offer the rationale necessary under Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a). Although "not a technical bar to our jurisdiction, it functions as a practical bar to our appellate jurisdiction. We cannot review an order that does not offer the court enough findings and conclusions to understand the [district] court's reason[ing]." Copper Hills Custom Homes v. Countrywide Bank, FSB, 2018 UT 42, ¶ 27, ---P.3d--- (alterations in original) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). And the district court did not "enter findings supporting the conclusion that [the certified] order[] [is] final." Bennion v. Pennzoil Co., 826 P.2d 137, 139 (Utah 1992) (per curiam). Therefore, we hold that we lack appellate jurisdiction and dismiss the appeal.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 This case comes before us with a complex procedural history, before both the district court and the court of appeals. However, the majority of the underlying facts and procedural history are irrelevant for the purposes of our disposition of this appeal. We therefore provide only the relevant factual and procedural information.

         ¶3 First National Bank of Layton (FNB) filed a suit against Mr. Palmer and several other parties. In response, Mr. Palmer filed counterclaims against FNB and cross-claims against several of the other defendants. After extensive litigation before the district court and multiple appeals to the court of appeals, Mr. Palmer filed a motion to amend his counterclaim against FNB and to join a party. The trial court denied that motion on the grounds that it was untimely because it was filed after the deadline set in the scheduling order and that granting it would cause unfair prejudice to FNB.

         ¶4 After further summary judgment proceedings on the remaining claims, FNB and Mr. Palmer "reached a settlement and compromise that [was] documented in a private agreement" and stipulated to a voluntary dismissal of all of the claims and counterclaims between FNB and Mr. Palmer without prejudice. The court entered a stipulated dismissal, which preserved "[a]ny right that [Mr.] Palmer may have to appeal" the order denying his motion to amend and to join a party. Additionally, the dismissal did not affect Mr. Palmer's cross-claims against the other defendants, which are still ongoing. The district court entered an order certifying the stipulated dismissal without prejudice as final pursuant to rule 54(b) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. Mr. Palmer appealed the district court's denial of his motion to amend and to join a party.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶5 "Whether appellate jurisdiction exists is a question of law, which we review for correctness." Butler v. Corp. of The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2014 UT 41, ¶ 15, 337 P.3d 280. Additionally, "[w]hether a district court's judgment is final is a question of law," which we can consider for the first time on appeal. DFI ...


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