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Wright v. Swigart

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

August 16, 2013



COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: James W. Morgan, Jr. Steven R. Dowell Covington, Kentucky

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEES: Richard S. Cleary Kathleen B. Wright Griffin Terry Sumner Louisville, Kentucky




By separate order entered this date, the Court denied appellant's motion to reconsider our previous order dismissing her appeal as interlocutory. However, in order to address arguments advanced in the motion to reconsider and to clarify the order dismissing, the Court on its own motion has elected to modify the order of dismissal by substituting this opinion and order for the order previously entered.

In dismissing this appeal as interlocutory, the Court cited as precedent this Court's opinion in Copass v. Monroe County Medical Foundation, Inc., 900 S.W.2d 617 (Ky. App. 1995). Upon further consideration, we concede that the language which we cited from Copass is dicta and is not controlling authority. However, that language accurately states the law concerning the application of the nunc pro tunc rule. Furthermore, the principles discussed in Copass would not preclude the application of the relation-forward doctrine. Nevertheless, we conclude that the relation-forward doctrine does not apply in this case because Wright filed a notice of appeal from a clearly interlocutory order. Therefore, for the reasons that follow, we hold that Wright's appeal must be dismissed as interlocutory.

In the matter below, Wright brought suit against the Appellee Russell A. Swigart and three corporations. On August 31, 2012, the circuit court entered a summary judgment dismissing the corporate defendants, but Wright's claims against Swigart were not affected. The trial court issued an order denying Wright's CR 59.05 motion on October 22, 2012. However, neither order contained finality language as required by CR 54.02.

On November 9, 2012, Wright filed a Notice of Appeal naming Swigart and the three corporate defendants as Appellees. On December 17, the Appellees filed a motion to dismiss with this Court, noting that the appeal had not been taken from a final and appealable order. While we do not have the circuit court record, it appears that Wright moved the trial court for entry of an amended order granting finality. The trial court entered a nunc pro tunc order on December 20 which included the necessary finality language. Appellees moved to dismiss this appeal alleging that the December 20 order could not retroactively grant finality to a non-final order.

In Copass, the plaintiffs filed suit for medical negligence in Jefferson County, even though the negligent acts occurred in Monroe County. Two of the defendants filed motions to dismiss for improper venue. The trial court granted the motions. Thereafter, on March 14, 1994, the trial court denied the motion to alter, amend, or vacate the dismissal of those two defendants. As further set out in the opinion:

The Copasses filed a notice of appeal with this Court on April 14, 1994. This Court ordered the Copasses to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed as having been taken from an interlocutory judgment, in that the trial court's previous order did not contain the recitation of finality required in CR 54.02. Thereafter, the trial court entered an order nunc pro tunc adding the finality language of CR 54.02. However, this Court dismissed the appeal, reasoning that "a nunc pro tunc order cannot retroactively vest finality upon a judgment which was interlocutory when the notice of appeal herein was filed." The Copasses filed a new notice of appeal from the trial court's corrected order.

Id. at 619.

It appears that this Court has applied the above-quoted language as a basis for dismissal in a number of unpublished opinions and orders. However, this discussion is not part of the substantive holding of the Copass decision. Rather, it is merely a recitation of the procedural history of the first appeal. As such, this language is not authoritative, although it may be persuasive or entitled to respect. See Cawood v. Hensley, 247 S.W.2d 27, 29 (Ky. 1952), and Board of Claims of Kentucky v. Banks, 31 S.W.3d 436, 439 n.3 (Ky. App. 2000).

However, the discussion in Copass is correct insofar as applies the nunc pro tunc rule. The purpose of the rule is to record some act of the court done at a former time which was not carried into the record. The power of the court to make such entries is restricted to placing into the record evidence of judicial action which has been actually taken. It may be used to make the record speak the truth, but not to make it speak what it did not speak but ought to have spoken. Hence, a court in entering a judgment nunc pro tunc has no power to construe what the judgment means, but only to enter of record such judgment as had been formerly rendered, but which had not been entered of record as rendered. Carroll v. Carroll, 338 S.W.2d 694 (Ky. ...

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