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Fine v. Tumpkin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 25, 2019

PAMELA FINE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH M. TUMPKIN, MIKE MACINTYRE, RICK GEORGE, PHILIP DISTEFANO, and BRUCE BENSON, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT UNDER FED. R. CIV. P. 54(B)

          WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Pamela Fine seeks a entry of a final judgment against Defendants Mike MacIntyre, Rick George, Philip DiStefano, and Bruce Benson (jointly, “University Defendants”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Plaintiff brought negligence claims and a corresponding conspiracy against the University Defendants arising out of the manner in which they responded to Plaintiff's allegations of abuse by Defendant Joseph Tumpkin (“Tumpkin”) during his tenure as an Assistant Coach of the University of Colorado men's football team. The Court dismissed Plaintiff's negligence and conspiracy claims against the University Defendants because Plaintiff had not and could not establish that the University Defendants owed her a duty of care (“Dismissal Order”). (ECF No. 59 at 16, 18.) Plaintiff's remaining claims against Tumpkin are stayed pending resolution of a state court criminal proceeding. (ECF No. 52 at 10; ECF No. 59 at 19.)

         Plaintiff appealed the Dismissal Order to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. (ECF No. 61.) The Tenth Circuit reviewed this Court's docket and suspended merits briefing pending resolution of a jurisdictional defect: the Court's Dismissal Order did not resolve all claims by and against all parties. (ECF No. 64 at 2.) Plaintiff then filed the present motion asking the Court to direct entry of a final judgment as to the University Defendants under Rule 54(b)(the “Motion”). (ECF No. 65.) Plaintiff has informed the Court that the University Defendants do not object to the relief requested, and neither the University Defendants nor Tumpkin filed a response to the motion. For the reasons discussed below, the Motion is granted.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 54(b) states that “when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, . . . parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay.” Rule 54(b) was adopted to codify the “historic rule in the federal courts [which] has always prohibited piecemeal disposition of litigation” and “to avoid the possible injustice of a delay in judgment of a distinctly separate claim to await adjudication of the entire case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) advisory committee's note.

         “Rule 54(b) entries are not to be made routinely . . . . [T]rial courts should be reluctant to enter Rule 54(b) orders since the purpose of this rule is a limited one: to provide a recourse for litigants when dismissal of less than all their claims will create undue hardships.” Okla. Tpk. Auth. v. Bruner, 259 F.3d 1236, 1242 (10th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). “Rule 54(b) may be invoked only in a relatively select group of cases and applied to an even more limited category of decisions.” Waltman v. Georgia-Pac., LLC, 590 Fed.Appx. 799, 808 (10th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         To grant a motion under Rule 54(b), a court must make two “express determinations”: (1) that the relevant order is a final order, and (2) that there is no just reason to delay entry of judgment until a conclusive ruling has been made on all claims and all parties to the case. Okla. Tpk. Auth., 259 F.3d at 1242. A court must also confirm that the lawsuit involves multiple claims. Waltman, 590 Fed.Appx. at 809 n.9.[1] A district court's determination of finality is subject to de novo review, whereas the “no just reason for delay” decision is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Okla. Tpk. Auth., 259 F.3d at 1242.

         II. ANALYSIS

         The Motion is effectively confessed. Neither the University Defendants nor Tumpkin responded to Plaintiff's motion for Rule 54(b) certification. Pursuant to D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.1(a), Plaintiff conferred with the University Defendants who indicated that they do not object to the relief requested. (ECF No. 66.) On this basis alone the Court would have grounds to grant the Motion.

         However, given that Rule 54(b) certifications are a disfavored remedy, the Court is compelled to perform a full analysis including determining that there are multiple claims and the decision is final, certifying that there is no reason for just delay, and directing an entry of judgment. See Alpine Bank v. Hubbell, 2007 WL 3216573 at *2 (D. Colo. Oct. 25, 2007) (analyzing a plaintiff's unopposed motion for a Rule 54(b) certification).

         A. Multiple Claims

         Plaintiff brought multiple claims, which arose out of a shared set of facts, against multiple defendants. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 115-174.) Plaintiff brought negligence and conspiracy claims against the University Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 132-174.) Plaintiff also brought assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims against Tumpkin. (Id. ¶¶ 115-131.) The requirement of multiple claims against multiple defendants is thus satisfied.

         B. Final Judgment

         In the context of a Rule 54(b) certification, the “judgement” must be final “in the sense that it is an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action.” Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Elec. Co., ...


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