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Supreme Court strikes down premature appeal in class action lawsuit

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] overturned [opinion, PDF] the Ninth Circuit's decision in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker [SCOTUSblog materials] on Monday, denying plaintiffs the opportunity to appeal a trial court's decision before a final judgment is rendered when the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their action with prejudice. 28 USC § 1291 [text] gives courts of appeals jurisdiction after a final judgment is rendered at the trial level. In Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay [opinion], the court found that a trial court's order granting or denying class certification is not a final judgment (pursuant to 1291 requirements) and is not grounds for an immediate appeal. Following the Coopers decision, Rule 23(f) [text] was added to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to give appellate courts discretion as to whether to permit or deny an immediate order granting or denying class certification. In entering a judgment for Microsoft, the court held that a voluntary dismissal with prejudice is not a final judgment and does not satisfy 1291.

We hold that voluntary dismissal essayed by respondents does not qualify as a "final decision" within the compass of §1291. The tactic would undermine §1291's firm finality principle, designed to guard against piece-meal appeals, and subvert the balanced solution Rule 23(f) put in place for immediate review of class-action orders.
Parties denied class action certification will not automatically have grounds for immediate appeal if they dismiss their case with prejudice. If parties are denied class action certification, they will need to pursue individual claims and reach a final judgment, before they have grounds to appeal under 1291, but the appellate courts may still grant permission for immediate appeal under Rule 23(f).

The case was brought by Xbox 360 users who claim the video game console damages discs. The court heard arguments in the case in March after granting certiorari [JURIST reports] in January.

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