Monday, March 9, 2015

Request for Prejudgment Interest Stops the Appeals Clock in Federal Court—Unlike Attorney Fees

By E. King Poor
Partner, Quarles & Brady LLP

A short opinion from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit serves as a reminder that until a plaintiff’s entire case has been decided—including any claim for prejudgment interest—there’s no final judgment for appeal. In Dual-Temp of Illinois, Inc. v. Hench Control, Inc., ___ F.3d ___, 2015 WL 304124 (7th Cir., 2015), the district court entered judgment after a trial and then checked a box on a judgment form indicating that no prejudgment interest would be awarded. Checking the box was an error, and 28 days later, the plaintiff moved the court to quantify prejudgment interest. But to avoid any issue about an untimely appeal, the defendant appealed the judgment following day. 

Later, the district court agreed it would consider the plaintiff’s motion for prejudgment interest. As a result, the defendant informed the Seventh Circuit that its appeal should be deemed premature. The Seventh Circuit agreed and ruled that there was no final judgment because prejudgment interest “makes up part of a plaintiff’s damages.” Id. at * 1. The court explained that the district court must “quantify damages before a judgment can be final.” Also, it could not consider the judgment final on the ground that determining prejudgment interest is merely “mechanical and uncontroversial.” Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal for lack of a final judgment.

The ruling in Dual-Temp is straightforward enough—there is no final judgment until there has been a ruling on prejudgment interest. But, at the same time, it is also well to pause and remember this rule differs significantly from a request for attorney fees. Last year, in Ray Haulch Gravel Co. v. Central Pension Fund, 134 S. Ct. 773 (2014), the United States Supreme Court settled a split among the circuits and held that a request for attorney fees, by itself, does not toll the time for appeal. The court reasoned that even if the requested attorney fees arose from a contract, the request for fees was still collateral to the merits and did not prevent the judgment from becoming final for appeal. Id. at 780. The court noted, however, an exception under Fed. R. Civ. P. 58(e) under which a district court may allow a pending and undecided request for attorney fees to suspend the time to appeal. Id. at 781.

Thus, requests for prejudgment interest versus those for attorney fees — though they both might be viewed as collateral to the merits — actually affect finality differently. In short, a pending request for prejudgment interest stops the appeals clock, but a request for attorney fees generally will not.

Recommended Citation: E. King Poor, Request for Prejudgment Interest Stops the Appeals Clock in Federal Court—Unlike Attorney FeesThe Brief, (March 9, 2015),

DISCLAIMER: The Appellate Lawyers Association does not provide legal services or legal advice. Discussions of legal principles and authority, including, but not limited to, constitutional provisions, statutes, legislative enactments, court rules, case law, and common-law doctrines are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.