In Re: Randall J. Davis et al v. Crumbley Backhoe Service et al

Filing 9

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that the decision of the United States Bankruptcy Court is AFFIRMED. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 11/16/2009. (cc, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA E A S T E R N DIVISION In re R A N D A L L J. DAVIS, D e b to r, E S T A T E OF RANDALL J. DAVIS, P la in tif f -A p p e lla n t, v. C R U M B L E Y BACKHOE SERVICE, a n d RON CRUMBLEY, D e f e n d a n ts-A p p e lle e s . ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C A S E NO. 3:09-cv-783-MEF (W O - DO NOT PUBLISH) M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER I . INTRODUCTION T h is case is before the court on appeal from a decision of the United States B a n k ru p tc y Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Case No. 08-80461-DHW. On July 2 3 , 2009, the bankruptcy court issued an order granting summary judgment in favor of D e f e n d a n ts Crumbley Backhoe Service and Ron Crumbley (collectively, "Appellees"). The E sta te of Randall J. Davis ("Davis's Estate" or "Appellant") appeals the bankruptcy court's d e c is io n to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 158(a). For the reasons stated below, the court f in d s that the bankruptcy court's order is due to be AFFIRMED. II. BACKGROUND A s part of its bankruptcy proceedings, Davis's Estate filed suit against Appellees. Appellees employed Randall Davis ("Davis") and fired him after he requested pay stubs from th e m to file with the Bankruptcy Court. Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 525(b), Davis's Estate c la im e d that Appellees wrongfully terminated Davis's employment solely because he had f ile d for bankruptcy under Title 11 of the United States Code. The Bankruptcy Court granted s u m m a ry judgment in favor of Appellees. Appellant appeals this determination. I I I . STANDARD OF REVIEW A district court reviews de novo a bankruptcy court's entry of summary judgment. In re Optical Technologies, Inc., 246 F.3d 1332, 1335 (11th Cir. 2001). I V . DISCUSSION T h e Bankruptcy Court ruled in this case that, because Davis was not a debtor or a f o rm e r debtor under Title 11 at the time of the termination of his employment, 11 U.S.C. 5 2 5 (b ) does not protect Appellant. The statutory section at issue provides: N o private employer may terminate the employment of, or discriminate with respect to employment against, an individual who is or has been a debtor under this title . . . solely because such debtor or bankrupt-- (1 ) is or has been a debtor under this title or a debtor or bankrupt under the B a n k ru p tc y Act; (2 ) has been insolvent before the commencement of a case under this title or d u rin g the case but before grant or denial of a discharge; or (3 ) has not paid a debt that is dischargeable in a case under this title or that was d is c h a rg e d under the Bankruptcy Act. 1 1 U.S.C. 525(b) (emphasis added). T h e plain language of the statute indicates that it protects those who are or have been debtors, not those who will be debtors. No party disputes that Davis had not yet filed for b a n k ru p tc y protection under Title 11 at the time Appellees terminated his employment. Therefore, at the time of his discharge Davis neither was nor had been a debtor under Title 1 1 , and it appears that the statute does not protect him. T h e United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida has previously a f f irm e d a bankruptcy court's granting of summary judgment on this issue. In re Kanouse, 1 6 8 B.R. 441, 447 (S.D. Fla. 1994). The Court found that it was proper to follow the plain m e a n i n g of the clear language of 525(b). Id. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district c o u rt's reasoning without decision. Kanouse v. Gunster, Yoakley, 53 F.3d 1286 (Table) (11th C ir. 1995). See also In re Majewski, 310 F.3d 653 (9th Cir. 2002) (concluding that the plain la n g u a g e of 525(b) controls). A s noted by Appellant, other courts have determined that the plain language of the s ta tu te does not fit congressional intent. In re Mayo, 322 B.R. 712 (Bankr. D. Vt. 2005); In re Tinker, 99 B.R. 957 (Bankr. W.D. Mo. 1989). See also Majewski, 310 F.3d 653 (R e in h a rd t, J., dissenting). However, these cases rely largely on the legislative histories of o th e r bills, not on the legislative history of what would become 525(b). See Kanouse, 168 B .R . at 44849 (noting that the legislative history used in Tinker dealt with a bill that was n e v e r enacted). See also Majewski, 310 F.3d at 658 n. 2 (Reinhardt, J., dissenting) (a c k n o w le d g in g the use of the legislative history of 525(a), enacted six years prior to 5 2 5 (b )); Mayo, 322 B.R. at 717 (relying entirely on Judge Reinhardt's reasoning in his M a je w s k i dissent). Additionally, when the language of a statute is clear, it is not appropriate to consider legislative history. See, e.g., United States v. Ron Pair Enters., 489 U.S. 235, 241 (1 9 8 9 ); In re Burns, 887 F.2d 1541, 1545 (11th Cir. 1989). T h is Court agrees with the courts in Kanouse and Majewski that the plain language o f 11 U.S.C. 525(b) clearly provides for its applicability. Because Davis was not a current o r former debtor under Title 11 at the time of the termination of his employment, the statute d o e s not protect him. V . CONCLUSION A c c o rd in g ly, the decision of the United States Bankruptcy Court is hereby ORDERED A F F IR M E D . A separate judgment will be entered in accordance with this Memorandum O p in io n and Order. D O N E this the 16th day of November, 2009. /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

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