Seventh District, Monticello The Honorable Lyle R. Anderson
Matthew C. Barneck, Brian D. Bolinder, Wayne Z. Bennett, Salt
Lake City, for appellee
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
"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 ...