Robinson v. Kay – 7/30/2010
Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds That the Court of Appeals Does Not Have Jurisdiction Over a Judgment That Merely Disposes of One of the Two Legal Theories Supporting a Single Claim Despite Rule 54(b) Language Certifying the Judgment as Final.
The Robinsons and Kays own adjacent properties. Since 1971, the Robinsons had used a road that extends across the Kays’ property and continues into the community of Arivaca. In 2007, improvements were made to the road and a dispute arose between the parties regarding the Robinsons’ continued use of the road. In 2008, the Robinson’s filed a lawsuit to enforce their use of the roadway, alleging the alternative theories of easement by implication and prescription. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment on whether the Robinsons had an implied easement – one of the Robinson’s two theories in support of their right to use the road. The trial court granted the Kays’ motion and, pursuant to the stipulation of the parties, certified the order as a final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b). The Robinsons appealed and the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal.
The Court noted that Rule 54(b) permits a trial court to enter an appealable final judgment on fewer than all claims in a case so long as the judgment disposes of at least one separate claim of a multi-claim action. The Court found, however, that although easements by prescription and implication are separate legal theories; they do not constitute separate claims; both easement theories give rise to only a single remedy and a single claim for relief. Therefore, Rule 54(b) language cannot make the trial court’s order granting summary judgment appealable. In addition, although not requested by the parties, the Court further declined to exercise special action jurisdiction because the questions presented are neither issues of first impression nor of statewide importance and the public policy against deciding cases piecemeal weighs against accepting jurisdiction in light of the possibility that the Robinsons may ultimately prevail on the complete action.
Judge Vasquez authored the opinion; Judges Eckerstrom and Kelly concurred.