Respondents filed a complaint alleging that petitioner's
employee insurance benefits and maternity leave regulations
discriminated against its women employees in violation of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and seeking injunctive relief,
damages, costs, and attorneys' fees. After ruling in respondents'
favor on their motion for a partial summary judgment on the issue
of petitioner's liability under the Act, the District Court, upon
denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration, issued an amended
order stating that injunctive relief would be withheld because
petitioner had filed an appeal and had asked for a stay of any
injunction, and directing that, pursuant to Fed.Rule Civ.Proc.
54(b), final judgment be entered for respondents, there being no
just reason for delay. The Court of Appeals, holding that it had
jurisdiction of petitioner's appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1291,
affirmed on the merits.
1. The District Court's order was not appealable as a final
decision under § 1291. Pp.
424 U. S. 742
(a) Even assuming that the order was a declaratory judgment on
the issue of liability, it nevertheless left unresolved and did not
finally dispose of any of the respondents' prayers for relief. P.
424 U. S.
(b) The order did not become appealable as a final decision
pursuant to § 1291 merely because it made the recital required by
Rule 54(b), since that Rule applies only to multiple claim actions
in which one or more but less than all of the claims have been
finally decided and are found otherwise ready for appeal, and does
not apply to a single-claim action such as this one, where the
complaint advanced a single legal theory that was applied to only
one set of facts. Pp. 424 U. S.
(c) The order, apart from its reference to Rule 54(b),
constitutes a grant of partial summary judgment limited to the
issue of petitioner's liability, is by its terms interlocutory,
Page 424 U. S. 738
damages or other relief remain to be resolved, cannot be
considered "final" within the meaning of § 1291. P. 424 U. S.
2. Nor was the order appealable pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292's
provisions for interlocutory appeals. Pp. 424 U. S.
(a) Even if the order, insofar as it failed to include the
requested injunctive relief, could be considered an interlocutory
order refusing an injunction within the meaning of § 1292(a)(1),
and thus would have allowed respondents then to obtain review in
the Court of Appeals, there was no denial of any injunction sought
by petitioner, and it could not avail itself of that grant of
jurisdiction. Pp. 424 U. S.
(b) Even if the order could be considered as an order that the
District Court certified for immediate appeal pursuant to § 1292(b)
as involving a controlling question of law as to which there was
substantial ground for difference of opinion, it does not appear
that petitioner applied to the Court of Appeals for permission to
appeal within 10 days as required by § 1292(b); moreover, there can
be no assurance, had the other requirements of § 1292(b) been met,
that the Court of Appeals would have exercised its discretion to
entertain the interlocutory appeal. P. 424 U. S.
511 F.2d 199, vacated and remanded.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all
Members joined except BLACKMUN, J., who took no part in the
consideration or decision of the case.
Page 424 U. S. 739
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
Respondents filed a complaint in the United States District
Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in which they
asserted that petitioner's employee insurance benefits and
maternity leave regulations discriminated against women in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat.
253, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
(1970 ed. and Supp. IV). The
District Court ruled in favor of respondents on the issue of
petitioner's liability under that Act, and petitioner appealed to
the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. That court held that it
had jurisdiction of petitioner's appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and
proceeded to affirm on the merits the judgment of the District
Page 424 U. S. 740
granted certiorari, 421 U.S. 987 (1975), and heard argument on
the merits. Though neither party has questioned the jurisdiction of
the Court of Appeals to entertain the appeal, we are obligated to
do so on our own motion if a question thereto exists.
Mansfield, Coldwater & Lake Michigan R. Co. v. Swan,
111 U. S. 379
(1884). Because we conclude that the District Court's order was not
appealable to the Court of Appeals, we vacate the judgment of the
Court of Appeals with instructions to dismiss petitioner's appeal
from the order of the District Court.
Respondents' complaint, after alleging jurisdiction and facts
deemed pertinent to their claim, prayed for a judgment against
petitioner embodying the following relief:
"(a) requiring that defendant establish nondiscriminatory
hiring, payment, opportunity, and promotional plans and
"(b) enjoining the continuance by defendant of the illegal acts
and practices alleged herein;"
"(c) requiring that defendant pay over to plaintiffs and to the
members of the class the damages sustained by plaintiffs and the
members of the class by reason of defendant's illegal acts and
practices, including adjusted backpay, with interest, and an
additional equal amount as liquidated damages, and exemplary
"(d) requiring that defendant pay to plaintiffs and to the
members of the class the costs of this suit and a reasonable
attorneys' fee, with interest; and"
"(e) such other and further relief as the Court deems
After extensive discovery, respondents moved for partial summary
judgment only as to the issue of liability. Fed.Rule Civ.Proc.
56(c). The District Court, on January 9, 1974, finding no issues of
material fact in dispute,
Page 424 U. S. 741
entered an order to the effect that petitioner's
pregnancy-related policies violated Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964. It also ruled that Liberty Mutual's hiring and
promotion policies violated Title VII. [Footnote 1
] Petitioner thereafter filed a motion for
reconsideration, which was denied by the District Court. Its order
of February 20, 1974, denying the motion for reconsideration,
contains the following concluding language:
"In its Order, the court stated it would enjoin the continuance
of practices which the court found to be in violation of Title VII.
The Plaintiffs were invited to submit the form of the injunction
order, and the Defendant has filed Notice of Appeal and asked for
stay of any injunctive order. Under these circumstances, the court
will withhold the issuance of the injunctive order and amend the
Order previously issued under the provisions of Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b),
"And now this 20th day of February, 1974, it is directed that
final judgment be entered in favor of Plaintiffs that Defendant's
policy of requiring female employees to return to work within three
months of delivery of a child or be terminated is in violation of
the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; that
Defendant's policy of denying disability income protection plan
benefits to female employees for disabilities related to
pregnancies or childbirth are [sic
] in violation of Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and that it is expressly
directed that Judgment be entered for the
Page 424 U. S. 742
Plaintiffs upon these claims of Plaintiffs' Complaint; there
being no just reason for delay."
It is obvious from the District Court's order that respondents,
although having received a favorable ruling on the issue of
petitioner's liability to them, received none of the relief which
they expressly prayed for in the portion of their complaint set
forth above. They requested an injunction, but did not get one;
they requested damages, but were not awarded any; they requested
attorneys' fees, but received none.
Counsel for respondents when questioned during oral argument in
this Court, suggested that at least the District Court's order of
February 20 amounted to a declaratory judgment on the issue of
liability pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2201. Had
respondents sought only a declaratory judgment, and no other form
of relief, we would, of course, have a different case. But even if
we accept respondents' contention that the District Court's order
was a declaratory judgment on the issue of liability, it
nonetheless left unresolved respondents' requests for an
injunction, for compensatory and exemplary damages, and for
attorneys' fees. It finally disposed of none of respondents'
prayers for relief.
The District Court and the Court of Appeals apparently took the
view that, because the District Court made the recital required by
Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 54(b) that final judgment be entered on the
issue of liability, and that there was no just reason for delay,
the orders thereby became appealable as a final decision pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We cannot agree with this application of the
Rule and statute in question.
Rule 54(b) [Footnote 2
"does not apply to a single claim
Page 424 U. S. 743
action. . . . It is limited expressly to multiple claims actions
in which 'one or more but less than all' of the multiple claims
have been finally decided and are found otherwise to be ready for
Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.
, 351 U. S. 435
(1956). [Footnote 3
however, respondents set forth but a single claim: that
petitioner's employee insurance benefits and maternity leave
regulations discriminated against its women employees in violation
of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They prayed for
several different types of relief in the event that they sustained
the allegations of their complaint, see
8(a)(3), but their complaint advanced a single legal theory which
was applied to only one set of facts. [Footnote 4
] Thus, despite the fact that the District Court
undoubtedly made the findings required
Page 424 U. S. 744
under the Rule, had it been applicable, those findings do not in
a case such as this make the order appealable pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1291. See Mackey, supra
at 351 U. S.
We turn to consider whether the District Court's order might
have been appealed by petitioner to the Court of Appeals under any
other theory. The order, viewed apart from its discussion of Rule
54(b), constitutes a grant of partial summary judgment limited to
the issue of petitioner's liability. Such judgments are by their
terms interlocutory, see
Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 56(c), and
where assessment of damages or awarding of other relief remains to
be resolved have never been considered to be "final" within the
meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291. See, e.g., Borges v. Art Steel
243 F.2d 350 (CA2 1957); Leonidakis v. International
208 F.2d 934 (CA2 1953); Tye v. Hertz
173 F.2d 317 (CA3 1949); Russell v.
136 F.2d 654 (CA3 1943). Thus, the only
possible authorization for an appeal from the District Court's
order would be pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1292.
If the District Court had granted injunctive relief but had not
ruled on respondents' other requests for relief, this interlocutory
order would have been appealable under § 1292(a)(1). [Footnote 5
] But, as noted above, the court
did not issue an injunction. It might be argued that the order of
the District Court, insofar as it failed to include the injunctive
relief requested by respondents, is an interlocutory
Page 424 U. S. 745
order refusing an injunction within the meaning of § 1292(a)(1).
But even if this would have allowed respondents
obtain review in the Court of Appeals, there was no denial of any
injunction sought by petitioner, and it could not avail itself of
that grant of jurisdiction.
Nor was this order appealable pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).
] Although the
District Court's findings made with a view to satisfying Rule 54(b)
might be viewed as substantial compliance with the certification
requirement of that section, there is no showing in this record
that petitioner made application to the Court of Appeals within the
10 days therein specified. And that court's holding that its
jurisdiction was pursuant to § 1291 makes it clear that it thought
itself obliged to consider on the merits petitioner's appeal. There
can be no assurance that had the other requirements of § 1292(b)
been complied with, the Court of Appeals would have exercised its
discretion to entertain the interlocutory appeal.
Were we to sustain the procedure followed here, we would condone
a practice whereby a district court in virtually any case before it
might render an interlocutory decision on the question of liability
of the defendant,
Page 424 U. S. 746
and the defendant would thereupon be permitted to appeal to the
court of appeals without satisfying any of the requirements that
Congress carefully set forth. We believe that Congress, in enacting
present §§ 1291 and 1292 of Title 28, has been well aware of the
dangers of an overly rigid insistence upon a "final decision" for
appeal in every case, and has in those sections made ample
provision for appeal of orders which are not "final" so as to
alleviate any possible hardship. We would twist the fabric of the
statute more than it will bear if we were to agree that the
District Court's order of February 20, 1974, was appealable to the
Court of Appeals.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore vacated, and
the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss the petitioner's
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN took no part in the consideration or
decision of this case.
The portion of the District Court's order concerning
petitioner's hiring and promotion policies was separately appealed
to a different panel of the Court of Appeals. The judgment rendered
by the Third Circuit upon that appeal is not before us in this
case. See Wetzel v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co.,
508 F.2d 239,
421 U.S. 1011 (1975).
"Judgment upon multiple claims or involving multiple
"When more than one claim for relief is presented in an action,
whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party
claim, or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct
the entry of a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all
of the claims or parties only upon an express determination that
there is no just reason for delay and upon an express direction for
the entry of judgment. In the absence of such determination and
direction, any order or other form of decision, however designated,
which adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties shall not terminate the
action as to any of the claims or parties, and the order or other
form of decision is subject to revision at any time before the
entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and
liabilities of all the parties."
the Rule was amended to insure that
orders finally disposing of some but not all of the parties could
be appealed pursuant to its provisions. That provision is not
implicated in this case, however, to which Mackey's
exposition of the Rule remains fully accurate.
We need not here attempt any definitive resolution of the
meaning of what constitutes a claim for relief within the meaning
of the Rules. See
6 J. Moore, Federal Practice �� 54.24,
54.33 (2d ed.1975). It is sufficient to recognize that a complaint
asserting only one legal right, even if seeking multiple remedies
for the alleged violation of that right, states a single claim for
"The courts of appeals shall have jurisdiction of appeals
"(1) Interlocutory orders of the district courts of the United
States, the United States District Court for the District of the
Canal Zone, the District Court of Guam, and the District Court of
the Virginia Islands, or of the judges thereof, granting,
continuing, modifying, refusing or dissolving injunctions, or
refusing to dissolve or modify injunctions, except where a direct
review may be had in the Supreme Court."
"When a district judge, in making in a civil action an order not
otherwise appealable under this section, shall be of the opinion
that such order involves a controlling question of law as to which
there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an
immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate
termination of the litigation, he shall so state in writing in such
order. The Court of Appeals may thereupon, in its discretion,
permit an appeal to be taken from such order, if application is
made to it within ten days after the entry of the order:
That application for an appeal
hereunder shall not stay proceedings in the district court unless
the district judge or the Court of Appeals or a judge thereof shall