United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF FINAL
JUDGMENT PURSUANT TO RULE 54(b)
William T. Lawrence, Judge
cause is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion for
Entry of Final Judgment Pursuant to Rule 54(b) (Dkt. No. 72).
The motion is fully briefed and the Court, being duly
advised, GRANTS the motion for the reasons set forth below.
Plaintiff, Kristine Bunch, filed suit against the United
States on February 5, 2015, invoking jurisdiction pursuant to
the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C.
§ 1346(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq. This suit
alleged that Bunch had been wrongly convicted of the murder
of her three-year-old son based in part on the wrongful acts
of Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”)
forensic chemist William Kinard.
to filing the FTCA suit, Bunch filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983
suit against two State of Indiana Fire Marshals, James Skaggs
and Bryan Frank, alleging that they also had caused her
wrongful conviction. Jurisdiction in that case was based on
28 U.S.C. § 1331. Bunch moved to consolidate the two
cases, and the Court granted that motion on June 23, 2015.
Dkt. No. 58.
September 28, 2016, this Court granted the United States'
motion for summary judgment on all of Bunch's claims
against it, ruling that the intentional torts exception to
the FTCA applied because Kinard was not an investigative or
law enforcement officer. Dkt. No. 65. On October 27, 2016,
Bunch filed a Notice of Appeal from that Order and a
docketing statement in which Bunch argued that the ruling was
a final appealable order. Dkt. No. 67. The United States
responded to Bunch's docketing statement, arguing that
the September 28 ruling was not a final appealable order. On
November 22, 2016, the Seventh Circuit issued an order that
both Bunch and the United States of America file a reply to
the appellee's filing that advised the court whether
either party intended to file a motion for entry of partial
judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Bunch filed her motion
with this Court on November 30, 2016.
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) provides:
When an action presents more than one claim for
relief-whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or
third-party claim-or when multiple parties are involved, the
court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more,
but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court
expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay.
Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated,
that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the
action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised
at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all
the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). A Rule 54(b) order requires the
district court to make two determinations: (1) that the order
in question was truly a “final judgment, ” and
(2) that there is no just reason to delay the appeal of the
claim that was “finally” decided. General
Ins. Co. v. Clark Mall Corp., 644 F.3d 375, 379 (7th
Cir. 2011). Determining whether a judgment is appealable
under Rule 54(b) “involves comparing the issues at
stake in the appealed claims and those remaining in the
district court.” Marseilles Hydro Power, LLC, v.
Marseilles Land & Water Co., 518 F.3d 459, 464 (7th
Cir. 2008). The Court has discretion to enter a Rule 54(b)
judgment when claims are “legally distinct and involve
at least some separate facts.” Olympia Hotels Corp.
v. Johnson Wax Dev. Corp., 908 F.2d 1363, 1368 (7th Cir.
parties agree that the Court's Order granting summary
judgment to the United States fully resolves the claims
against it. As such, the Court need only decide whether there
is “no just reason for delay” of entry of
judgment in favor of the United States. The Court considers
the following non-exclusive list of factors:
The relationship between the adjudicated and unadjudicated
claims; (2) the possibility that the need for review might or
might not be mooted by future developments in the district
court; (3) the possibility that the reviewing court might be
obliged to consider the same issue a second time; (4) the
presence or absence of a claim or counterclaim which could
result in set-off against the judgment sought to be made
final; (5) miscellaneous factors such as delay, economic ...