A final judgment is generally defined as one that determines the merits of the controversy or defines the rights of the parties and leaves nothing for future determination or consideration. In short, a final judgment is one that determines all the claims as to all the parties. The test for whether an order is final is whether the trial court has clearly declared its intention that the order be the court’s final act in a case.1
An interlocutory order or decree is one which does not finally determine a cause of action but only decides some intervening matter pertaining to the cause, and which requires further steps to be taken in order to enable the court to adjudicate the cause on the merits.2
The rendition of a final judgment is the final judicial act of the court in regard to the respective rights and claims that have been submitted to the court for determination.3 This act is an order of the court which is entered on the docket of the case.4 The order may be for the payment of money, or may order specific action as requested in an action for a writ of mandamus or for an injunction. Although the term “judgment” normally refers to a final judgment,5 in civil cases it may also refer to an interlocutory judgment, which is an intermediate judgment rendered in the progress of the case that does not finally complete and determine all facets of the lawsuit.6 An interlocutory judgment is subject to revision at any time before entry of final judgment.7
A court, on its own motion or the motion of any party, with or without notice as the court orders, may correct mistakes in judgments in the nature of clerical mistakes or errors arising from oversight or omission.8 However, a court may not make changes that affect the substantive rights of the parties.9 Further, courts may not modify a judgment that has been rendered moot by a settlement.10 The Superior Court may correct an illegal sentence at any time11 and may correct a sentence imposed in an illegal manner within ninety days of its imposition.12 Further, within seven days after the imposition of a criminal sentence, the Superior Court and the Court of Common Pleas may correct a sentence to the extent that it was imposed as a result of an arithmetical, clerical or other clear error.13 Similarly in other courts, clerical errors in criminal judgments resulting from oversight or omission may be corrected at any time and after such notice, if any, as ordered by the court.13 Any judgment may not be corrected if the record is unambiguous and does not establish clerical error or mistake.15
1. Braddock v. Zimmerman, 906 A.2d 776, 780 (Del. 2006); Mentor Graphics Corp. v. Shapiro, 818 A.2d 959, 962 (Del. 2003); Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Aetos Corp., 809 A.2d 575, 579 (Del. 2002).
2. Mahani v. Walls, C.A. No. 97C-10-139, slip op. at 2, Alford, J. (Del. Super. Sept. 21, 2001).
3. Hazzard v. Alexander, 36 Del. 512, 178 A. 873, 875 (Del. Super. 1935). See also J. I. Kislak Mortg. Corp. v. William Matthews, Builder, Inc., 303 A.2d 648 (Del. 1973) (where the court had determined liability but had not fixed the amount of the judgment then later determined and fixed the amount, the judgment did not become final until the order fixing the amount was entered); Bradley v. Pittsburgh Corning Corp., C. A. No. 84C-MY-145, slip op. 2, Taylor, J. (Del. Super. Sept. 26, 1990) (ORDER) (a final judgment is one which disposes of the rights of parties upon the entire controversy or upon some definite and separate branch thereof).
4. Ch. Ct. R. 54(a), 58; Super. Ct. Civ. R. 54(a), 58; Super. Ct. Cr. R. 32(b); Comm. Pls. Ct. Civ. R. 54(a), 58; Comm. Pls. Ct. Cr, R. 32(b); Fam. Ct. Civ. R. 54(a), 58; Fam. Ct. Cr. R. 32(b); J.P. Ct. Civ. R. 19(1); J.P. Ct. Cr. R. 2 1(b); Ald. & M. Ct. R. 20(b).
5. Long v. Lee, 168 A.2d 536, 537 (Del. Super. 1960); Hazzard v. Alexander, 178 A. 873 (Del. Super. 1935).
6. C. v. C., 320 A.2d 717, 720 (Del. 1974); Electrical Research Products, Inc. v. Vitaphone Corp., 171 A. 738, 747 (Del. 1934).
7. Ch. Ct. R. 54(b); Super. Ct. Civ. R. 54(b); Comm. Pls. Ct. Civ. R. 54(b); Fam. Ct. Civ. R. 54(b).
8. Ch. Ct. R. 60(a); Super. Ct. Civ. R. 60(a): Super. Ct. Cr. R. 36; Comm. Pls. Ct. Civ. R. 60(a); Comm. Pls. Ct. Cr. R. 36: Fam. Ct. Civ. R. 60(a); Fam. Ct. Civ. R. 36; J.P. Ct. Civ. R. 20(a); J.P. Ct. Cr. R. 24; Ald. & M. Ct. R. 23.
9. Oldham v. Taylor, C.A. No. 18800-NC, slip op. at 2, Parsons, V.C. (Del. Ch. Mar. 16, 2005); Baltimore Trust v. McGee, C.A. No. 93L-10-004, slip op. at 6-7, Stokes, J. (Del. Super. Aug, 21, 2001).
10. Crescent/Mach I Partners, L.P. v. Dr. Pepper Bottling Co. of Texas, 962 A.2d 205, 210 (Del. 2008).
11. Super. Ct. Cr. R. 35(a). See also Comm. Pls. Ct. Cr. R. 35; Fam. Ct. Cr. R. 35; J.P. Ct. Cr. R. 23(a); Ald. & M. Cs. Cr, R. 22(a).
12. Super. Ct. Cr. R. 60(a).
13. Super. Ct. Cr. R. 35(c); Comm. Pls. Ct. Cr. R. 35(c).
14. Fam. Ct. Cr. R. 36; J.P. Ct. Cr. R. 24; Ald. & M. Ct. Cr. R. 23.
15. Sampson v. State, 569 A.2d 95 (Del. 1990).
© 2010 David L. Finger