Twenty years ago, the Minnesota Supreme Court formally adopted the collateral order doctrine in Kastner v. Star Trails Ass’n, 646 N.W.2d 235 (Minn. 2002). In the years since then, the appellate courts have applied the doctrine several times, but it remains a relatively rare vehicle for appellate review and can be challenging to understand.
What is the Collateral Order Doctrine?
The collateral order doctrine is meant to provide an immediate appeal for a “small class of [decisions] which finally determine claims of right separable from, and collateral to, rights asserted in the action, too important to be denied review and too independent of the cause itself to require that appellate consideration be deferred until the whole case is adjudicated.” Kastner, 646 N.W.2d at 240. Under the doctrine, an order can be immediately appealed when it (1) conclusively determined the disputed question, (2) resolved an important issue completely separable from the merits of the action, and (3) is effectively unreviewable in an appeal from a final judgment. Id.
Development of the Collateral Order Doctrine
Subsequent to Kastner, the Minnesota Court of Appeals was faced with the issue of whether other parties may obtain review of other aspects of the trial court’s decision when the appellant has appealed under the collateral order doctrine. It held that it can only be done when the additional issues are “inextricably intertwined” with the issues properly raised in the collateral order appeal, such that the pendent claim is “coterminous with, or subsumed in, the claim” being appealed under the collateral order doctrine. Aon Corp. v. Haskins, 817 N.W.2d 737, 742 (Minn. Ct. App. 2012). This rule applies whether the party attempting to file a Notice of Related Appeal is a co-appellant or a respondent. Vang v. Forsman, 883 N.W.2d 288, 290-91 (Minn. Ct. App. 2016).
The collateral order doctrine has also been extended to criminal appeals. State v. Ali, 806 N.W.2d 45, 49 (Minn. 2011).
Examples of the Collateral Order Doctrine in Practice
The collateral order doctrine began with cases involving claims of immunity, and most cases that apply it still arise in that context. However, it is not limited to immunity claims. Minnesota courts have addressed the collateral order doctrine in the following circumstances:
- In Croix Dev., LLC v. Gossman, 735 N.W.2d 320 (Minn. 2007), the denial of an application to discharge a notice of lis pendens was found to be not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine because it was not separate from the merits of the action.
- In D’Amico Catering, Inc. v. Webb Golden Valley, LLC, No. A07-528, 2007 WL 1186598 (Minn. Ct. App. Apr. 11, 2007), the collateral order doctrine was held not to allow an immediate appeal of the denial of a motion for disqualification of opposing counsel based on an alleged conflict of interest, although the court noted the grant of a motion for disqualification of counsel might be immediately appealable.
- In Anderson v. Mayo Clinic, No. A07-2071, 2008 WL 3836744, at *1 (Minn. Ct. App. Aug. 19, 2008), the collateral order doctrine was used to obtain review of a trial court’s denial of a motion for judgment on the pleadings when the motion was based on consent, which was raised as an absolute defense to the plaintiff’s claim for invasion of privacy.
- In Shepherd v. Stade, No. A07-1220, 2008 WL 2246259 (Minn. Ct. App. June 3, 2008), the court held that denial of a motion to dismiss based on failure to include an indispensable party under Minn. R. Civ. P. 19 was immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine.
- In Asian Women United of Minnesota v. Leiendecker, 789 N.W.2d 688 (Minn. Ct. App. 2010), the collateral order doctrine was applied to obtain review of a trial court order denying an indemnification advance. The court reasoned that denial of the advance would be unreviewable from a final judgment because to be of any value an advancement must be made promptly. However, the appellant could not obtain review of other issues that would not ordinarily be appealable under the collateral order doctrine at the same time.
- In Beach v. Budd, No. A10-1471, 2011 WL 1642579 (Minn. Ct. App. May 3, 2011) the collateral order doctrine was used to review whether the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction in light of the defendant religious institution’s claim under the entanglement doctrine.
- In McCullough & Sons, Inc. v. City of Vadnais Heights, 883 N.W.2d 580, 583 (Minn. 2016), the city had imposed an assessment on real property. The city moved for summary judgment, arguing the plaintiff’s failure to file a written objection to the assessment required dismissal. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment and the city appealed. The Minnesota Supreme Court held the denial of summary judgment was not appealable under the collateral order doctrine because it would not be unreviewable after final judgment.
- In Doe v. Empire Ent., LLC, 2017 WL 1832414 (Minn. Ct. App. 2017), the collateral order doctrine was used to challenge the trial court’s denial of the plaintiff’s request to proceed with the litigation under a pseudonym.
- In Vander Wiel v. Wahlgren, 934 N.W.2d 125 (Minn. Ct. App. 2019), the collateral order doctrine was used to challenge the trial court’s decision to appoint a guardian ad litem for the wife in a marital dissolution.
Although the last 20 years have included several Minnesota cases further elaborating and applying the collateral order doctrine, it can still be difficult to discern whether it is appropriate to invoke in any particular case. If you have questions, please contact Lommen Abdo appellate attorneys Michelle Kuhl and Kay Hunt. Michelle Kuhl can be reached at 612.336.9328 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Kay Hunt can be reached at 612.336.9341 or email@example.com.