California’s One Final Judgement Rule
California has adopted the “one final judgment,” Code of Civil Procedure §904.1(a)(1). Under California’s “one final judgment rule, a judgment that fails to dispose of all the causes of action pending between the parties is generally not appealable.
Where The One Judgement Rule Issues ArisesUnder California*s *one final judgment rule, a judgment that fails to dispose of all the causes of action pending between the parties is generally not appealable. See, e.g., Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara,(1994) 7 Cal.4th 725, 740-741. *There can be but one final judgment in an action, and that is one which in effect ends the suit in the court in which it is entered, and finally determines the rights of the parties in relation to the matter in controversy.* San Joaquin County Dept. of Child Support Services v. Winn (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 296, 300. There are exceptions to the rule.
The *one final judgment rule* also generally applies in cases where there are both a complaint and a cross-complaint. If all the claims in one pleading are disposed of, but the claims asserted in the other pleading are not, then an appeal cannot be taken from the decision or judgment disposing of the claims in the single pleading.
In Angell v. Superior Court, 73 Cal.App.4th 657 (4th District, 1999), the Court of Appeals considered the situation where a complaint was adjudicated but the cross complaints was not. The court in Angell said at page 661:
*The same principle applies [the *one final judgment rule] when some of the causes of action are alleged in a cross-complaint. Thus, when a judgment resolves a Complaint, but does not dispose of a cross-complaint pending between the same parties, the judgment is not final and thus not appealable. (Southern Pacific Land Co. v. Westlake Farms, Inc. (1987) 188 Cal.App.3d 807, 825-826, 233 Cal. Rptr.. 794.) In that event, the appeal must be dismissed (Nicholson v. Henderson (1944) 25 Cal. 2d 375, 381, 153 P.2d 945), unless the appellate court chooses to treat the improper appeal as a petition for an extraordinary writ. (Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara, supra, 7 Cal.4th 725, 744-747, 29 Cal. Reptr. 2d 804, 872 P.2d 143.)*
What If Your Appeal Cannot Wait?There are times where the appellant must take an appeal where circumstances call into question the timeliness of an appeal if one waits. In those circumstances, it therefore behooves an appellant to ask the court to treat the first appeal as a petition for an extraordinary writ. See, e.g.,Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara, supra, 7 Cal.4th 725, 745-747, 29 Cal. Rptr. 2d 804, 872 P.2d 143; Olson v. Cory, supra, 35 Cal.3d 390, 400-401, 197 Cal. Rptr. 843, 673 P.2d 720.
If you are nevertheless instructed by the court of appeal to file your you opening brief after having advised the court that there are still pending disputes between the parties pin the Superior Court, then you must comply with that directive, but be sure to make a record of it in the introductory part of your brief. The proper course for the court to take on appeal is to either dismiss (without prejudice) as being premature or simply stay the appeal.
When faced with such a decision, the court in Lemaire v. All City Employees Assn., 35 Cal.App.3d 106 (2nd District, 1973) elected not to treat the appeal as a writ, but then proceeded to dismiss the appeal as premature. The reason is simple: *Any decision by a court which lacks jurisdiction is ineffectual. Therefore, to render a decision on the appeal would be a futile act. It is the duty of the court, on its own motion, to dismiss an appeal from a nonappealable order. (Olmstead v. West, 177 Cal. App. 2d 652 [2 Cal. Rptr. 443]; David v. Goodman, 89 Cal. App. 2d 162 [200 P.2d 568].)*
Conclusion:It thus good practice when faced with an appeal of a case that does not have all matters adjudicated to seek a dismissal of that appeal without prejuidice on the ground that is it premature. That will get you the most favorable outcome. You may request that it be treated as a writ, but do not hold your breath. You can also move to stay and consolidate with additional appeals if taken, at a later stage.
To completely button things up, you ought to request that the appellate court issue an order directing the lower court not to alter the order on appeal. If you did not file a writ of supersedeas relative to that adverse judgment you appealed, this is the time to do it.