Without delving too deeply into the underlying facts, which are largely irrelevant to this issue, on February 24, 2016, In Casey v. Presbyterian Hospital et al., plaintiffs commenced suit against Presbyterian Medical Center alleging negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Presbyterian then joined Aramark Management Services who in turn then joined Allied Barton Security Services. Presbyterian then filed cross-claims for contribution, common law indemnity, and contractual indemnity against Aramark and Allied Barton.
Following discovery, Presbyterian, Aramark, and Allied Barton all filed respective motions for summary judgment. The trial court then issued an order which granted Presbyterian’s motion in full and dismissed all claims against it and then granted Aramark’s and Allied Barton’s motions, dismissing all claims against them except Presbyterian’s contractual indemnity claims.
The plaintiffs and all three defendants then filed appeals, and on March 5, 2018, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania quashed them all. In Pennsylvania, an appeal may only be taken from a final order, certain interlocutory orders as of right, an interlocutory order by permission of the court, or a collateral order. The parties appealed on one basis that the trial court’s decision was a final order since it extinguished the plaintiffs’ claims against Presbyterian, thus killing off any remaining claims. In Pennsylvania, a final order is one that disposes of all claims and/or parties; or one that disposes fewer than all the parties/claims but is entered as a final order by the court. The Superior Court disagreed with the parties’ position and found that the trial court’s order was not final in that Presbyterian could still seek costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees under its cross-claims, regardless of the outcome of its motion for summary judgment. Thus, the case still continued.
Presbyterian also contended that the trial court’s order was appealable as a collateral order. A collateral order is one that is separable from and collateral to the main cause of action where the right involved is too important to be denied review and is such that if review is postponed, the claim would be irreparably lost. Courts usually disfavor collateral order appeals since they want to avoid “piecemeal determinations” in litigation – and the the Superior Court declined to address Presbyterian’s argument here. Since the underlying order was neither final nor collateral, the parties’ appeals were premature and improper . In other states, such as New York, the appeal and cross-appeal would have been proper… but not in Pennsylvania.
This case demonstrates the intricacies of appellate practice — according to the Court, Presbyterian would have been better off simply waiting for a final determination before taking any affirmative appellate action, provided its rights were preserved. In essence, the Court ruled that Presbyterian’s appeal is premature, and therefore a waste everyone’s time and money. Thanks to Peter Cardwell for his contribution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.