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Brown v. MHC Stagecoach, LLC

Supreme Court of Nevada

May 30, 2013

KATHERINE BROWN, Appellant,
v.
MHC STAGECOACH, LLC, Respondent.

Jurisdictional screening of a proper person appeal from a district court order statistically closing a case in an employment matter. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Douglas W. Herndon, Judge.

Katherine Brown, Tacoma, Washington, in Proper Person.

Jackson Lewis LLP and Elayna J. Youchah, Las Vegas, for Respondent.

BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.

OPINION

GIBBONS, J.

This court has jurisdiction to consider an appeal from a district court order only when the appeal is authorized by statute or court rule. Katherine Brown appeals from a district court form order that statistically closed her case, even though the district court had not yet entered a final judgment resolving Brown's claims. The question we must decide is whether such an order is substantively appealable. It is not, as no statute or court rule authorizes an appeal from an order statistically closing a case and the order does not constitute a final, appealable judgment, as none was entered. Because we lack jurisdiction, we dismiss this appeal.

FACTS

This appeal arises from a district court employment action filed by appellant Katherine Brown against her former employer, respondent MHC Stagecoach, LLC. Brown alleged that her supervisor had violated her civil rights by engaging in discriminatory treatment, and as a result, she was constructively terminated from her job. Through counsel, Brown filed a complaint, and the parties entered into settlement negotiations in an effort to resolve the action. Brown initially authorized her attorney to settle with MHC for $7, 500. The parties dispute whether a settlement was ever actually agreed to, however, because Brown ultimately refused to sign the settlement agreement that she was presented with based on her objection to certain language in the agreement limiting the parties' ability to disclose details about the conflict and settlement. Following the breakdown of these settlement efforts, Brown's attorney requested, and was granted, leave to withdraw.

Immediately after Brown's counsel withdrew, MHC filed a motion in the district court to enforce the settlement agreement, asserting that the parties had agreed on the material terms of the settlement, rendering the agreement enforceable. As the basis for its motion, MHC furnished correspondence between MHC and Brown's former counsel and correspondence between Brown and her former counsel regarding the settlement terms. Brown, now proceeding pro se, opposed the motion, but the district court granted the motion and entered an order setting forth the terms of the parties' settlement. The order did not enter judgment in favor of either party nor did it otherwise expressly resolve Brown's insistence that the parties did not reach a settlement. Brown appealed from that order, but this court dismissed that appeal for lack of jurisdiction, after concluding that the order was not an appealable, final judgment because it did not dismiss or formally resolve Brown's complaint.

Following the district court's grant of the motion to enforce the settlement agreement, and after the dismissal of Brown's first appeal, MHC issued a check to Brown for the settlement amount, which she refused to accept and returned to MHC marked "void." As a result, MHC filed a motion to deposit the settlement proceeds with the district court, which the district court granted. Like the prior order granting the motion to enforce the settlement, this order failed to enter judgment in favor of either party or otherwise resolve the case. Approximately two weeks after the district court granted MHC's motion to deposit the settlement proceeds, Brown filed an untimely opposition to MHC's motion and proposed order. Thereafter, without addressing Brown's opposition to MHC's motion, the district court entered a form order statistically closing the case on the basis that there had been a stipulated judgment. Brown has appealed from that order.

DISCUSSION

This court has appellate jurisdiction to review decisions of the district courts. Nev. Const, art. 6, § 4. But this court's appellate jurisdiction is limited, Valley Bank of Nev. v. Ginsburg, 110 Nev. 440, 444, 874 P.2d 729, 732 (1994), and we may only consider appeals authorized by statute or court rule. Taylor Constr. Co. v. Hilton Hotels Corp., 100 Nev. 207, 209, 678 P.2d 1152, 1153 (1984). No statute or court rule directly provides for an appeal from an order statistically closing a case, see NRAP 3A(b) (designating the judgments and orders from which an appeal may be taken), however if the order constitutes a final judgment, then it is substantively appealable under NRAP 3A(b)(l) (permitting an appeal from a final judgment in a civil action). The finality of an order or judgment depends on "what the order or judgment actually does, not what it is called." Valley Bank of Nev., 110 Nev. at 445, 874 P.2d at 733. To be final, an order or judgment must "dispose [ ] of all the issues presented in the case, and leave[] nothing for the future consideration of the court, except for post-judgment issues such as attorney's fees and costs." Lee v. GNLV Corp., 116 Nev. 424, 426, 996 P.2d 416, 417 (2000). Thus, we look to the text of the order statistically closing Brown's case to determine whether the order renders a final, appealable judgment.

The order statistically closing the underlying case is a form that, like a standard district court order, contains at the top of the page a heading identifying the court and the county, the case caption, and the case number and department. The body of the order has a title and ...


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