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Frangos v. Doering Equipment Corp.

filed: October 21, 1988.

CONSTANTINE A. FRANGOS
v.
DOERING EQUIPMENT CORPORATION V. PARKER-HANAFIN CORPORATION, PETTIBONE CORPORATION, PETTIBONE TEXAS CORPORATION, LOGAN EQUIPMENT CORPORATION, PARKER-HANAFIN CORPORATION, APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civ. No. 87-4016.

Gibbons, Chief Judge, Seitz, Circuit Judge and Farnan, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Seitz

Opinion OF THE COURT

SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

Appellant Parker-Hanafin Corporation ("Parker") appeals from the judgment entered by the United States magistrate in favor of Appellees Doering Equipment, Inc. ("Doering") and Logan Equipment Corporation ("Logan") and from the magistrate's dismissal of Appellant's motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial. Parker also appeals from the order of the magistrate requesting Appellees to resubmit a detailed record of attorneys' fees. The United States magistrate had jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332; 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). This court has jurisdiction over that part of the case which has been brought to a final judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(3).

I

Mr. Constantine Frangos ("Frangos"), while working at the Philadelphia Naval Yard, fell fifteen feet from a manlift. Frangos sustained injuries as a result of the fall and instituted suit against Pettibone Corporation, Pettibone Texas Corporation,*fn1 Logan, Doering and Parker. Thereafter, Logan and Doering crossclaimed against Parker. On the eve of trial, Frangos reached a settlement agreement with Logan and Doering whereby Logan and Doering agreed to pay Frangos $52,500.

Logan and Doering pursued a claim for indemnity or contribution against Parker. After the jury was selected and opening arguments were heard, the case was transferred with consent of the parties to a United States magistrate. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). At the close of Appellees' case, Parker moved for a directed verdict under Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This motion was granted as to Appellees' negligence, warranty and failure to warn claims but was denied as to Appellees' strict liability theory.

Thereafter, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Appellees in the amount of $52,500. Parker then filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial. Still later, Doering and Logan filed a petition for attorneys' fees.*fn2 The United States magistrate dismissed Parker's post trial motions based on Parker's failure to prosecute and ordered Doering and Logan to submit a detailed record of attorneys' fees. Doering and Logan then provided the court with a record of attorneys' fees.

II

The United States magistrate concluded that Doering and Logan were entitled to attorneys' fees to the extent that they were related to Doering and Logan's defense of the original claim brought by Frangos. The magistrate then ordered Doering and Logan to resubmit a detailed record of attorneys' fees to allow the magistrate to determine which fees were applicable to the original action. At the time of this appeal, the amount of fees to which Doering and Logan were entitled, if any, was not determined.

Doering and Logan's entitlement to attorneys' fees has not yet been brought to a final judgment and is therefore not appealable. 28 U.S.C. § 1291. It has long been the rule in this circuit that this court lacks jurisdiction to examine the merits of an attorneys' fee award where the award has not been quantified. Beckwith Machinery Co. v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 815 F.2d 286 (3d Cir. 1987); deMouy v. Ingvoldstad, 664 F.2d 21 (3d Cir. 1981). The portion of the appeal dealing with attorneys' fees, i.e. No. 88-1331, will therefore be dismissed.

Appellees contend that this court lacks jurisdiction over the merits of the underlying decision. It is argued that the failure to quantify attorneys' fees renders all aspects of the case unappealable. Although a cogent argument could have previously been waged based on past precedent within this circuit, the Supreme Court has recently rendered a decision making the Appellees' position untenable. Budinich v. Becton Dickinson, 486 U.S. 196, 56 U.S.L.W. 4453, 100 L. Ed. 2d 178, 108 S. Ct. 1717 (U.S. May 23, 1988) In Budinich the Supreme Court held that a decision on the "merits is a 'final decision' as a matter of federal law under § 1291 [even] when the recoverability or amount ...


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