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CURTISS-WRIGHT CORP. v. GENERAL ELECTRIC CO.

decided: April 22, 1980.

CURTISS-WRIGHT CORP
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC CO.



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

Burger, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Author: Burger

[ 446 U.S. Page 3]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54 (b) allows a district court dealing with multiple claims or multiple parties to direct the entry of final judgment as to fewer than all of the claims or parties; to do so, the court must make an express determination that there is no just reason for delay. We granted certiorari in order to examine the use of this procedural device. 444 U.S. 823 (1979).

I

From 1968 to 1972, respondent General Electric Co. entered into a series of 21 contracts with petitioner Curtiss-Wright Corp. for the manufacture of components designed for use in nuclear powered naval vessels. These contracts had a total value of $215 million.

In 1976, Curtiss-Wright brought a diversity action in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, seeking damages and reformation with regard to the 21 contracts. The complaint asserted claims based on alleged fraud,

[ 446 U.S. Page 4]

     misrepresentation, and breach of contract by General Electric. It also sought $19 million from General Electric on the outstanding balance due on the contracts already performed.

General Electric counterclaimed for $1.9 million in costs allegedly incurred as the result of "extraordinary efforts" provided to Curtiss-Wright during performance of the contracts which enabled Curtiss-Wright to avoid a contract default. General Electric also sought, by way of counterclaim, to recover $52 million by which Curtiss-Wright was allegedly unjustly enriched as a result of these "extraordinary efforts."

The facts underlying most of these claims and counterclaims are in dispute. As to Curtiss-Wright's claims for the $19 million balance due, however, the sole dispute concerns the application of a release clause contained in each of the 21 agreements, which states that "Seller . . . [agrees] as a condition precedent to final payment, that the Buyer and the Government . . . are released from all liabilities, obligations and claims arising under or by virtue of this order." App. 103a. When Curtiss-Wright moved for summary judgment on the balance due, General Electric contended that so long as Curtiss-Wright's other claims remained pending, this provision constituted a bar to recovery of the undisputed balance.

The District Court rejected this contention and granted summary judgment for Curtiss-Wright on this otherwise undisputed claim. Applying New York law by which the parties had agreed to be bound, the District Court held that Curtiss-Wright was entitled to payment of the balance due notwithstanding the release clause. The court also ruled that Curtiss-Wright was entitled to prejudgment interest at the New York statutory rate of 6% per annum.

Curtiss-Wright then moved for a certification of the District Court's orders as final judgments under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54 (b),*fn1 which provides:

"When more than one claim for relief is presented in an

[ 446 U.S. Page 5]

     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 court expressly directed entry of final judgment for Curtiss-Wright and made the determination that there was "no just reason ...


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