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Aspen Ford, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


July 30, 2007

ASPEN FORD, INC., BRIGHT BAY LINCOLN-MERCURY, INC., HEMPSTED LINCOLN-MERCURY MOTORS CORP., KOEPPEL FORD, INC., L&B LINCOLN MERCURY, INC., MCDANIEL FORD, INC., SMITHTOWN FORD, INC., TOWER FORD, INC., DAN BUCKEY FORD, INC., R.C.LACY, INC., PATCHOGUE MOTORS, INC., WANTAGH FORD, INC., MCCARVILLE FORD, INC., MORNINGSTAR FORD, INC., JOHNSON FORD, INC., BILL KOLBE, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, DEFENDANT.
UNIVERSAL FORD, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sifton, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Aspen Ford, Inc., McCarville Ford, Inc. ("McCarville"), L&B Lincoln-Mercury, Inc. ("L&B"), Bright Bay Lincoln Mercury Inc., Hempsted Lincoln-Mercury, Koeppel Ford Inc., McDaniel Ford Inc., Popular Ford Inc., Smithtown Ford Inc., Tower Ford Inc., Dan Buckley Ford Inc., R.C.Lacy, Inc., Patchogue Motors, Inc., Wantagh Ford, Inc., Morningstar Ford, Inc., Johnson Ford Inc., Universal Ford, Inc., and Bill Kolbe Jr. brought these action against the Ford Motor Company ("Ford"), seeking damages and injunctive relief for alleged violations of §465 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law ("NYVTL") and breach of contract.*fn1

In substance, plaintiffs claim that Ford failed to reimburse them for parts used to make repairs covered by Ford's consumer warranties in amounts required by statute.

Pursuant to a stipulation, so-ordered by Magistrate Judge Gold on November 14, 2003, the parties agreed that L&B and McCarville would serve as 'test' plaintiffs.*fn2 On March 28, 2006, I granted Ford's motion for summary judgment against L&B and McCarville. Ford v. Ford Motor Co., 2006 WL 842397 (E.D.N.Y. 2006). On March 12, 2007, I denied plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration and defendant's motions for entry of partial summary judgment and costs and fees. Ford v. Ford Motor Co., 2007 WL 777739 (E.D.N.Y. 2007).

On June 15, 2007, the parties notified the Court that they had agreed to a stipulation of dismissal of all claims of the remaining non-test plaintiffs, without prejudice, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(ii).*fn3 Now before the Court is a motion by McCarville, L&B and Ford to direct the entry of final judgment. For the reasons set forth below, this motion is denied.*fn4

Background

Familiarity with the underlying facts and procedural history of this case, as set forth in prior decisions, is presumed.

Discussion

Entry of Final Judgment

In my March 28, 2006, Memorandum Opinion and Order, I granted Ford's motion for summary judgment against L&B and McCarville, I ordered the Clerk "enter judgment in favor of defendant." On March 29, 2007, the Clerk filed a "Judgment" stating "that plaintiff [sic] take nothing of the defendant; and that defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted."

Recognizing that the judgment did not dispose of all claims by all parties in the case, Ford thereafter moved for entry of a partial judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b).*fn5 I thereafter denied the motion for entry of a partial judgment on the grounds that "the claims of the other plaintiffs are inseparable and an immediate appeal will lead to piecemeal appeals." The parties now request that I enter final judgment in favor of Ford, pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 60(a).*fn6 See In re Frigitemp Corp., 781 F.2d 324, 327 (2d Cir. 1986) (Rule 60(a) applies where "the judgment simply has not accurately reflected the way in which the rights and obligations of the parties have in fact been adjudicated.").

As Ford recognized in its original Rule 54(b) motion, the Clerk's judgment was not a final judgment for the purposes of appeal, nor did I intend for that to be the case. See 28 U.S.C. § 1291 ("The courts of appeals . . . shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States."); Weyant v. Okst, 198 F.3d 311, 314 (2d Cir. 1999) ("A judgment is said to be final if it conclusively determines the rights of the parties to the litigation and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the order or resolve collateral issues."). The ruling on summary judgment did not resolve all the outstanding issues, as there remain claims of other plaintiffs potentially presenting materially different factual situations.*fn7 Accordingly, it is appropriate to vacate the Clerk's judgment of March 29, 2007, and now take up the question of whether it is appropriate to enter a final judgment now that the claims of the non-test plaintiffs have been dismissed.

"It is appropriate to take a practical view of [a] dismissal." Chappelle v. Beacon Communications Corp., 84 F.3d 652, 654 n.3 (2d Cir. 1996). Where "a dismissal without prejudice does not preclude another action on the same claims, a plaintiff who is permitted to appeal following a voluntary dismissal without prejudice will effectively have secured an otherwise unavailable interlocutory appeal." Id. at 654 (Dismissing the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction and noting that "[a] plaintiff's attempt to appeal a prior adverse determination following the dismissal of his remaining claims without prejudice necessarily implicates the policies of the final judgment rule.").*fn8 Since there is nothing preventing the dismissed plaintiffs from renewing their lawsuit after a ruling on appeal, this motion is, in substance, identical to the previously denied Rule 54(b) motion and implicates the same concerns about piecemeal appeals, and is accordingly denied.*fn9 See South Austin Coalition Community Council v. SBC Communications Inc., 191 F.3d 842, 844 (7th Cir. 1999) (When "a judge grants summary judgment on one claim in a complaint, and the litigant dismisses another without prejudice, planning to reinstate the dismissed claim after receiving an appellate decision on the first [] [s]uch a 'dismissal' is smoke and mirrors; the reality is that the case is ongoing in the district court, and 28 U.S.C. § 1291 does not authorize appeal from resolution of a single claim in a multi-claim or multi-party case, except under the conditions in Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b).").

Conclusion

For the reasons set forth above, the motion to direct the entry of final judgment is denied. The Clerk is directed to transmit a filed copy of the within to all parties and the Magistrate Judge.

SO ORDERED.

Charles P. Sifton (electronically signed) United States District Judge


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