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BUCHANAN V. STANSHIPS, INC., 485 U. S. 265 (1988)

U.S. Supreme Court

Buchanan v. Stanships, Inc., 485 U.S. 265 (1988)

Buchanan v. Stanships, Inc.

No. 87-133

Decided March 21, 1988

485 U.S. 265


Petitioners filed a wrongful death action against respondents under the Death on the High Seas Act (Act). This Act contains no provision regarding costs, and the District Court's judgment for respondents did not mention costs. After petitioners filed a notice of appeal, respondents filed an application for costs styled as a "Motion to Amend or Alter Judgment" under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), which the District Court granted. Petitioners did not file a second notice of appeal. The Court of Appeals dismissed petitioners' appeal for failure to file a timely appeal because, under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(4), a notice of appeal filed before the

Page 485 U. S. 266

disposition of a Rule 59(e) motion has no effect, and a "new notice of appeal must be filed within the prescribed time measured from the entry of the order disposing of the motion."

Held: A prevailing party's motion for costs in a wrongful death action brought under the Death on the High Seas Act does not constitute a Rule 59 motion rendering ineffective a notice of appeal filed prior to the disposition of that motion. Rule 59(e) generally is invoked only to support reconsideration of matters encompassed in the decision on the merits, not when a party is seeking what is due because of the judgment. Because the Act does not provide for costs, respondents' motion for costs raised issues wholly collateral to the judgment on the main cause of action, and is properly viewed as a motion for costs to a prevailing party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d). The incorrect designation of respondents' Rule 54(d) motion as a Rule 59(e) motion cannot change this fact or deprive petitioners of the benefit of their timely notice of appeal.

Certiorari granted; reversed and remanded.

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