Fourth Circuit Denies Appeal When There are Genuine Issues of Fact on Defendants’ Immunity Defense

Michael W. Mitchell and Donald H. Tucker, Jr.

In an unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit considered the defendants’ appeal from the denial of their motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. Cooper v. Lippa No. 13-2055 (4th Cir. April 4, 2014). The Court explained that, “[w]hile interlocutory orders generally are not appealable, an order denying a defendant’s claim of qualified immunity is immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine ‘to the extent that it turns on an issue of law.’” Id., quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985).

The Court, citing a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision, concluded that when a genuine issue of material fact exists on the qualified immunity defense, then the denial of the motion for summary judgment is not immediately appealable. Id., citing Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304, 311-320 (1995). The Court thus dismissed the defendants’ appeal.

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