BIFURCATION CAN RESULT IN AN EARLY FINAL APPEALABLE ORDER
Belcher-Robinson Foundry, LLC v. Narr:
On January 29, 2010, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released this opinion wherein it considered whether or not an Order regarding a bifurcated compensability hearing was final and appealable. Initially , the employer filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus following an adverse ruling on the issue of compensability. The Court of Appeals treated the Petition for Writ of Mandamus as an appeal seeking review of a final and appealable judgment.
Plaintiffs had sought to bifurcate the trials for a determination on medical treatment with thoughts that the employer could not appeal because it was a mere compensability determination. If the trial court only rules on compensability and awards no other relief the judgment is not final and the only relief would be by Petition for Writ of Mandamus.
At the trial level, the Court ruled that the injury was compensable and the employer owed medical expenses and temporary total disability benefits. The Court of Appeals held that because the Court ruled on temporary total disability, as will as medical benefits, the Order was final for purposes of appeal.
Warning: If your case is bifurcated and the issue of compensability is tried first, be sure to check and see if the judge also makes a ruling concerning TTD and medical benefits. If both are addressed, then you have a final Order and your right to appeal the issue of compensability will be forever closed at the expiration of 42 days. You can no longer wait for the second Order to appeal that issue.