Did the "death knell doctrine" require plaintiff to immediately appeal the sustaining of a demurer as to class claims when the ruling resolved both individual and class claims, or did the one final judgment rule apply and require a single appeal from the subsequent entry of final judgment on all claims?In an unpublished opinion filed on October 20, 2009, the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Seven) held that the notice of appeal was untimely:
An order denying class certification is appealable. (Linder v. Thrifty Oil Co. (2000) 23 Cal.4th 429, 435.) However, an order sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend “is ordinarily not appealable, since the order is not a final judgment.” (Alch v. Superior Court (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 339, 359.)
An exception to the latter rule arises “in a class action if the legal effect of the order is ‘tantamount to a dismissal of the action as to all members of the class other than plaintiff,’ and if the order ‘has virtually demolished the action as a class action.’ [Citation.] California allows direct appeal of such a ‘death-knell’ order as a matter of state law policy.” (Alch v. Superior Court, supra, 122 Cal.App.4th at pp. 359-360.) “Since, in theory, the individual plaintiff’s action can go forward, the death knell doctrine fits comfortably into the exception to the ‘one final judgment’ rule that arises when parties have separate and distinct interests; when this is true, there can be a final and appealable judgment for each such party. [Citation.]” (Farwell v. Sunset Mesa Property Owners Assn., Inc. (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 1545, 1547.)
An exception to the rule regarding the appealability of an order sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend has been applied where, as here, the trial court sustains a demurrer without leave to amend as to both the class action allegations and the individual causes of action. (See, e.g., Los Altos Golf & Country Club v. County of Santa Clara (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 198, 202.) We are reluctant to carve out exceptions to the rule and thus introduce an element of uncertainty into what has otherwise been the established rule. Would the exception apply only where, as here, a single order sustains the demurrer without leave to amend as to both the class and individual claims? Would it apply where separate orders address the class and individual claims? A bright-line rule would eliminate any uncertainty. Accordingly, we adhere to the rule that “in a class action if the legal effect of the order is ‘tantamount to a dismissal of the action as to all members of the class other than plaintiff,’ and if the order ‘has virtually demolished the action as a class action,’” the order is immediately appealable. (Alch v. Superior Court, supra, 122 Cal.App.4th at pp. 359-360.)
Since the April 27, 2007 order sustaining Bayer’s demurrer to Shaw’s class claims was immediately appealable, Shaw’s December 20, 2007 notice of appeal was untimely as to these claims. We therefore affirm the judgment dismissing the class claims.
Slip op. at 8-9. I haven't seen the briefs, but it appears that review was granted to address the split in authority with the Los Altos case.
Baycol has been added to my list of pending Supreme Court cases of interest to attorneys practicing in this area.