Sep 162014

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, the jurisdiction of the federal Circuit Courts of Appeal is generally limited to “final decisions,” which means, in essence, that only when a district court has resolved all that there is to resolve is an aggrieved litigant then permitted to appeal. That feature distinguishes federal appellate practice from state appellate practice, where interim (or “interlocutory”) appeals are commonplace.

In the ERISA context, it is not uncommon for a “successful” claimant (that is, a claimant who has proven to the district court’s satisfaction that some aspect of the disability insurance company’s claims handling was violative of his or her ERISA rights) to be awarded a “remand” to the claim administrator, rather than an outright award of benefits. So the question becomes: is a remand order considered a “final decision,” such that the disability insurance company may immediately appeal it?

In a decision handed down today, the Second Circuit held that remand orders “generally are not ‘final’ because, in an ordinary case, they contemplate further proceedings by the plan administrator.” This is so, said the Second Circuit, even when the district court instructs the clerk to “close the case” and “enter judgment.” As to the fate of a remand order that, in contrast to the order before the court, cannot be construed as having retained jurisdiction over the case, the Second Circuit indicated that it would be addressed on “another day.”

Mead v. Reliastar Life Ins. Co., 768 F.3d 102 (2d Cir. 2014)

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