Whitney Bank v. Payne Lee & Associates Architects, LLC, et al. (JOINT ASSIGN)
ORDER directing that the stay imposed on March 2, 2015, is lifted as to the non-debtor Defendant, Payne Lee & Associates Architects, LLC, and the counterclaim of debtor Defendant David H. Payne; the stay remains in full force and effect as to Plaintiff's claims against debtor Defendants, David H. Payne and Mark E. Lee. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on June 4, 2015. (scn, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
PAYNE LEE & ASSOCIATES
ARCHITECTS, LLC, et al.,
CASE NO. 2:14-CV-969-WKW
On February 10, 2015, the Magistrate Judge filed a Recommendation in this
case. (Doc. # 37.) On February 23, 2015, Defendants filed a timely Objection. (Doc.
# 38.) Before this court could conduct its review of the Recommendation, two of the
Defendants, David H. Payne and Mark E. Lee, filed notices of bankruptcy (Docs. #
39, 40), and an Order (Doc. # 41) was entered staying the litigation pursuant to 11
U.S.C. § 362(a).
After the stay was entered, Plaintiff filed the pending Motion for Adjudication
on Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation as to Non-Bankrupt Defendant
(Doc. # 42.)
As grounds for its request to have the
Recommendation partially adopted, Plaintiff cites 11 U.S.C. § 362(a) and argues that
the scope of the automatic bankruptcy stay does not extend to cover actions against
non-debtor codefendants or actions initiated by a debtor. Accordingly, before this
court can consider whether the Recommendation is due to be partially adopted and the
Objection partially overruled, the proper scope of the automatic bankruptcy stay must
When Defendants Payne and Lee filed for bankruptcy, an automatic stay was
triggered, prohibiting “the commencement or continuation . . . of a judicial,
administrative, or other action or proceeding against the debtor that was or could have
been commenced before the commencement of the [bankruptcy petition].” 11 U.S.C.
§ 362(a)(1). On March 2, 2015, an Order (Doc. # 41) was entered confirming the
operation of § 362(a) and staying the litigation. Plaintiff, however, is correct in
arguing that the scope of the automatic bankruptcy stay does not necessarily extend to
encompass the entirety of the present litigation. As a general matter, the automatic
stay does not extend to shield non-debtor codefendants. See In re Jefferson Cnty.,
Ala., 491 B.R. 277, 284 (Bankr. N.D. Ala. 2013) (“Generally, the automatic stay of §
362(a) applies only to certain actions taken or not taken with respect to a debtor . . .
.”); Gulfmark Offshore, Inc. v. Bender Shipbuilding & Repair Co., No. 09-0249, 2009
WL 2413664, at *1 (S.D. Ala. Aug. 3, 2009). Nor does it cover counterclaims
brought by a debtor defendant. Thomas v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield Ass’n, 333 F.
App’x 414, 420 (11th Cir. 2009) (explaining that “[u]nder [a] plain reading of the
statute, . . . counterclaims . . . are ‘not against the debtor,’ and thus [are] not subject to
the automatic stay” (quoting Crosby v. Monroe Cnty. 394 F. 3d 1328, 1331 n.2 (11th
While courts have carved out an “unusual circumstances” exception, the
exception is quite limited and largely reserved for situations where “there is such
identity between the debtor and the third-party defendant . . . that a judgment against
the third-party defendant will in effect be a judgment or finding against the debtor.”
Gulfmark, 2009 WL 2413664, at *1 (quoting Kreisler v. Goldberg, 478 F.3d 209, 213
(4th Cir. 2007)). Reviewing the exception’s limited application and the facts of this
case, it is apparent that no unusual circumstances of the kind sufficient to warrant an
extension of the automatic bankruptcy stay are present.
Further, Payne Lee &
Associates, the non-debtor Defendant, has failed to provide any argument in support
of the automatic bankruptcy stay’s extension.1
In accordance with the foregoing analysis, it is ORDERED that the stay
imposed on March 2, 2015, is lifted as to the non-debtor Defendant, Payne Lee &
Associates Architects, LLC, and the counterclaim of debtor Defendant David H.
Payne. The stay remains in full force and effect as to Plaintiff’s claims against debtor
Defendants, David H. Payne and Mark E. Lee. Plaintiff’s pending motion for partial
adoption of the Recommendation will be addressed in a separate opinion.
DONE this 4th day of June, 2015.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Payne Lee & Associates was ordered (Doc. # 43) to show cause in writing on or before
April 6, 2015, as to why Plaintiff’s motion should not be granted. To date, Payne Lee &
Associates has failed to comply with the order.
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