United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR ENTRY OF
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.
Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company (Metro-North) and the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have filed a
motion with the consent of third-party defendant United
Illuminating Company (UI) for the Court to enter a partial
final judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). For the
reasons set forth below, I will grant the motion.
Omar Colon suffered a severe electrocution injury after he
climbed a catenary pole along the railroad tracks near New
Haven, Connecticut. He and his spouse sued Metro-North and
the MTA, who in turn filed a third-party complaint against UI
for indemnification. Plaintiffs' claim proceeded to the
jury on a “constant trespasser” theory of
liability by which a possessor of property may be liable to a
trespassing plaintiff who is injured on the property if the
plaintiff has been injured by a hidden danger on the property
and if the possessor of the property was aware of prior
constant trespass near the hidden danger and failed to
reasonably warn of the hidden danger. See Maffucci v.
Royal Park Ltd. P'Ship, 243 Conn. 552, 559-60 (1998)
(citing Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 335).
August 22, 2017, the jury returned a verdict for defendants
Metro-North and the MTA. The jury concluded that plaintiffs
had failed to prove three of the five necessary elements for
their claim of “constant trespasser” liability
against defendants. First, it concluded that plaintiffs had
failed to prove that Colon's injury resulted from a
hidden danger. Second, it concluded that plaintiffs had
failed to prove that Metro-North knew of constant intrusion
by trespassers in dangerous proximity to the power lines on
its property. Third, it concluded that plaintiffs had failed
to prove that Colon was injured because of Metro-North's
failure to reasonably warn about danger on the catenary pole.
See Doc. #494 (jury verdict form); Doc. #496 (jury
jury, however, was not asked to render a verdict for the
third-party claim by Metro-North and MTA against UI. Instead,
as the parties requested, the jury solely answered a special
interrogatory, concluding that UI's wires did not
directly or indirectly cause the injuries to Colon. Doc. #494
at 3. The jury was advised that ultimate resolution of the
third-party claim would depend upon the resolution of legal
issues by the Court concerning the interpretation of the
contract between UI and the State of
Connecticut. With the consent of UI, Metro-North and
MTA have now moved pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) for entry
of partial final judgment on plaintiffs' claims against
Metro-North and the MTA. Doc. #504. Plaintiffs oppose the
motion. Doc. #507.
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.” Proper entry of partial final judgment
under this rule requires that three conditions be met: (1)
that there be multiple claims or multiple parties; (2) that
at least one claim, or the rights and liabilities of at least
one party, have been finally decided within the meaning of
the final-judgment rule; and (3) that the Court expressly
determine there to be no just reason for delay and direct the
Clerk of Court to enter judgment. See Information
Resources, Inc. v. Dun and Bradstreet Corp., 294 F.3d
447, 451 (2d Cir. 2002).
light of the policy against piecemeal appeals, the Second
Circuit has instructed that a district court should only
sparingly exercise its discretion to enter a partial final
judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b). See Novick v. AXA
Network, LLC, 642 F.3d 304, 310 (2d Cir. 2011). Thus,
for example, a district court should not ordinarily grant a
Rule 54(b) certification “if the same or closely
related issues remain to be litigated, ” because
“it does not normally advance the interests of sound
judicial administration or efficiency to have piecemeal
appeals that require two (or more) three-judge panels to
familiarize themselves with a given case in successive
appeals from successive decisions on interrelated
issues.” Id. at 311 (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted).
conclude that all three conditions of Rule 54(b) are met.
First, there are both multiple claims and multiple parties.
Second, all of plaintiffs' claims have been finally
decided, and there are no counterclaims against plaintiffs.
Third, there is no just reason for delay. The only claim
remaining in this case is a third-party claim for contractual
indemnification as between the defendants and the third-party
defendant. These parties represent that the Court's
adjudication of their dispute will strictly involve the
Court's interpretation of the contract between them and
be “wholly independent” of plaintiffs' tort
claims. Doc. #504 at 2. Indeed, neither the defendants nor
the third-party defendant will seek to challenge the
jury's determination that UI's wires did not cause
Colon's injury. Instead, the defendants have advised that
their contractual dispute will center on whether the contract
requires UI to pay indemnification for the defense against
plaintiffs' claims despite the fact that the
jury has found that UI's wires did not cause Colon's
injury. Doc. #490 at 71-74.
conclude that the equities favor entry of a separate
judgment. See Novick, 642 F.3d at 314.
Plaintiffs' claims have been pending for many years, and
I do not see why the adjudication of any of plaintiffs'
challenges to the validity of the jury's verdict or this
Court's rulings should await my resolution of the
separate contract dispute between the defendants and
third-party defendant. It may take me several more months to
receive briefing and resolve the contract issue, and I do not
see that my resolution of the contract issue will have
anything to do with plaintiffs' challenge to the
jury's verdict against them.
not persuaded by any of plaintiffs' counterarguments.
Although plaintiffs argue that granting the motion will
result in piecemeal appeals, I have already considered that
concern as discussed above. Based on the representation of
the defendants that the remaining dispute is “wholly
independent” of plaintiffs' claim, I do not believe
that any later appeal from my resolution of the contract
dispute would require duplicative consideration of facts or
legal issues by the Second Circuit.
suggest that the resolution of the third-party claim may
facilitate post-judgment “negotiations” among the
parties. Even if so, this does not militate against entering
final judgment on plaintiffs' claims now, because the
parties are free to negotiate amongst themselves at any time.
The Court referred the parties to Magistrate Judge Margolis
for multiple settlement conferences prior to trial, and there
is no reason ...