Hiob, et al. v. Progressive American Insurance Company, et al.
August 5, 2020
This case considered when a final judgment occurs that would start the 30-day clock for filing a notice of appeal. In this case, there were multiple plaintiffs and defendants. All of the plaintiffs had claims against one defendant, but that defendant was awarded summary judgment in October 2009 as to all of the plaintiffs. Only one plaintiff had a claim against the co-defendant. The award of summary judgment as to the first defendant was not a final judgment as it did not resolve the claim against the second defendant. The claim as to the remaining co-defendant was voluntarily dismissed by means of a voluntary stipulation of dismissal, which was filed in January 2011. At the same time the Stipulation of Dismissal was filed, a “Motion to Reduce Order of October 7, 2009 to Final Judgment” was also filed with the trial court. On February 8, 2011, the Motion to Reduce was granted and the Order stated that final judgment was entered. That Order was not docketed until February 25, 2011.
The Plaintiffs appealed the earlier adverse summary judgment ruling as to the first defendant on February 15, 2011. This Notice of Appeal was filed prior to the docketing of the Order, but more than 30 days since the Stipulation of Dismissal was docketed. The question arose as to when the 30 days to file an appeal began to run. The Defendant challenged the Notice of Appeal as untimely because it was filed more than 30 days after the Stipulation of Dismissal was docketed. The Plaintiffs argued that the Notice of Appeal was timely as it was filed prior to the docketing of the Order.
Under Maryland Rule 8-202(a), a “notice of appeal shall be filed within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken.” The date of entry of judgment is determined under Maryland Rule 2-601. Under that rule, a final judgment is not effective unless it is set forth on a separate document and is entered on the docket. The date on which the separate document is docketed triggers the 30-day deadline for filing a notice of appeal under Rule 8-202(a).
The Court of Appeals held that the stipulation of dismissal did not satisfy the requirements of Rule 2-601 for a separate document. The Court noted that the stipulation of dismissal was not in the form of a judgment, was not signed by either the judge or the clerk as required by the rule, and was not docketed consistent with the rule. As such, the Court concluded that the docketing of the stipulation of dismissal did not trigger the time for filing an appeal of the order awarding summary judgment. The Court held that the requirements of Rule 2-601 were satisfied only when the trial court subsequently signed the Order that incorporated the summary judgment ruling into a final judgment and that order was entered on the docket. Because the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal between the signing and the docketing of that order, the Court held that the appeal was timely