Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who Can Appeal? Who is "Aggrieved"?

One of the fundamentals of appellate practice is the requirement that only an "aggrieved party" can appeal. CPLR § 5511.

What this has come to mean is that a party who has successfully obtained a judgment or order in his favor cannot appeal although he may disagree with the findings of fact made by the lower court, or with the rationale of the lower court's decision. Parochial Bus Systems, Inc. v. Board of Education of the City of New York, 60 N.Y.2d 539, 544-545 (1983).

There are exceptions to the rule as when, for example, a party secures a favorable judgment or order but the judgment or order does not grant him the "complete relief" he sought.

But when there are multiple parties on each side, or alleged joint tortfeasors, the concept of who is "aggrieved" becomes more complex and uncertain because, for example, relief granted to one party making a motion may adversely affect another party who was not involved in the specific motion.

The Appellate Division, Second Department, in a major opinion, Mixon v. TBV, Inc., has now sought to make sense of the aggrievement requirement and to reconcile various lines of authority addressing the issue. After a detailed review of the case law, the Court formulates this two-pronged definition of aggrievement for appellate purposes:

"First, a person is aggrieved when he or she asks for relief but that relief is denied in whole or in part. Second, a person is aggrieved when someone asks for relief against him or her, which the person opposes, and the relief is granted in whole or in part."

Because aggrievement is fundamental to appellate law, Mixon is essential reading. The ruling also contains a valuable discussion of the limitations imposed on an appellate court in granting relief to a party which has not appealed. The decision can be found here.

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