In Re: Plant Insulation, Co.

Filing 141

ORDER DENYING STAY PENDING APPEAL TO THE NINTH CIRCUIT. Signed by Judge Richard Seeborg on 11/1/12. (cl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/1/2012)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 SAN FRANCISCO DIVISION 8 9 No. C 12-01887 RS In re: PLANT INSULATION COMPANY, 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Debtor. ____________________________________/ 12 13 FIREMAN’S FUND INSURANCE COMPANY, et al., 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 ORDER DENYING STAY PENDING APPEAL TO THE NINTH CIRCUIT Appellants, v. PLANT INSULATION COMPANY, et al., Appellees. ____________________________________/ I. INTRODUCTION This case arises from the complex Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Plant Insulation Company, 21 which sold, installed and repaired asbestos-containing insulation and fireproofing materials in 22 Northern California. On October 9, 2012, this Court issued a detailed order denying the appellant’s 23 appeal from the bankruptcy court’s confirmation of the restated second amended plan of 24 reorganization, as well as an order affirming confirmation of the restated second amended plan of 25 reorganization. The appellant insurers now move for an emergency stay of these orders for thirty 26 days or until the Ninth Circuit rules on appellants’ yet-to-be filed request for a stay pending appeal, 27 whichever is longer. Simultaneously, appellants also requested that their motion for a stay be heard 28 on shortened time. The motion for shortened time is denied as moot, as an order providing for an NO. C 12-01887 RS ORDER DENYING STAY 1 accelerated briefing schedule on the motion for a stay has already been entered pursuant to a 2 stipulation executed by the parties. 3 The 14-day automatic stay of the October 9, 2012, confirmation orders expired on October 4 23, 2012. The parties stipulated to a briefing schedule on the motion to stay under which briefing 5 was completed on October 24, 2012. The motion was submitted without oral argument pursuant to 6 Local Rule 7-1(b). Plan Proponents have represented that the plan will not become effective until 7 November 9, 2012, when it will be consummated through the merger of Plant and Bayside. That 8 date is fast-approaching. Time remains therefore within which application may be made to the 9 Ninth Circuit for an emergency stay pending appeal before the merger occurs. Due to the speed For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 with which this order must be issued, it does not address every issue raised by the parties but rather 11 focuses on the most glaring weakness in appellants’ application: the failure to establish that a stay is 12 necessary to prevent irreparable injury.1 II. 13 14 BACKGROUND The background of this case, well known to the parties, is set forth in the October 9, 2012 15 order denying appeal from confirmation of the restated second amended plan of reorganization, 16 docket number 109, and need not be revisited here. Suffice it to say, appellees represent that the 17 merger of Plant and Bayside needs to be completed by November 25, 2012, because Bayside must 18 make a $1.1 million payment to the IRS by that date under the terms of an Offer in Compromise for 19 back taxes, and Bayside cannot make that payment unless the merger has closed. When the plan 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 In connection with the briefing on the motion to stay, the parties each filed an ancillary motion. Appellants filed a motion to strike the declaration of Kristin A. Pace in support of the Plan Proponents’ opposition to the motion for a stay. Ms. Pace’s declaration is not improper expert testimony on tax law. Her declaration is based on her own personal experiences as a tax lawyer for parties in this case and does not lack foundation. Plan Proponents (or “Appellees”) have requested that judicial notice be taken of a brief filed in support of an emergency motion for a stay pending appeal before the Ninth Circuit in another bankruptcy case, In re Thorpe Insulation Co., 10-56543, as well as the Ninth Circuit’s docket sheet for that case. While the filing of briefs and case dockets may in the certain circumstances be the proper subject of judicial notice, here Plan Proponents do not ask for judicial notice of adjudicative facts as allowed under Federal Rule of Evidence 201(b). Instead, Plan Proponents request judicial notice of the content and persuasiveness of legal arguments made in a different case. Both motions are denied. NO. C 12-1887 RS ORDER DENYING STAY 2 1 becomes effective, the Settling Insurers will make $17.125 million in settlement payments. In 2 addition, the tort cases of asbestos victims and their families will be able to proceed in state court 3 against Plant. 4 III. LEGAL STANDARD order for a stay to issue. See Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 433 (2009). Those are: “‘(1) whether 7 the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether 8 the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will 9 substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest 10 For the Northern District of California Appellants, as movants, bear the burden of establishing each of the four factors required in 6 United States District Court 5 lies.’” Id. at 434 (quoting Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987)). “There is substantial 11 overlap between these and the factors governing preliminary injunctions.” Id. at 434. “The first two 12 factors . . . are the most critical.” Id. The factors may be weighed on a sliding scale, where “a 13 stronger showing of one element may offset a weaker showing of another.” Alliance for the Wild 14 Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1131 (9th Cir. 2011) (holding that the sliding-scale standard for 15 granting preliminary injunctions survives Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555. 16 U.S. 7 (2008)); see also Levia-Perez v. Holder, 640 F.3d 962, 966 (9th Cir. 2011) (holding that the 17 sliding-scale approach also survives Winter in the context of stays) (“Although there are important 18 differences between a preliminary injunction and a stay pending review . . . we do not believe they 19 would support a balancing approach for preliminary injunctions but not stays.” (citation omitted)). 20 For example, even if the movant is unable to make a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on 21 the merits, as long as “serious questions going to the merits” are raised, a stay may be appropriate 22 where “the balance of hardships tips sharply in the plaintiff’s favor.” Id. at 1135. The scale only 23 slides so far, though; a demonstration that irreparable injury is likely, rather than just possible, is 24 always required of the movant. See Nken, 556 U.S. at 435. 25 26 IV. DISCUSSION A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits 27 In the context of a stay pending appeal, “[c]ourts do not rigidly apply the success on the 28 merits factor because a rigid application would require the district court ‘to conclude that it was NO. C 12-1887 RS ORDER DENYING STAY 3 1 probably incorrect in its determination on the merits.’” Divxnetworks, Inc. v. Gericom AG, No. 04- 2 cv-2537, 2007 WL 4538623, at *3 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 19, 2007) (quoting Protect Our Water v. 3 Flowers, 377 F.Supp.2d 882, 884 (E.D.Cal.2004)). The Court stands by its analysis of the merits, 4 but admits that this is a difficult case. The plan had many “unique features” that required wrestling 5 with and resolving novel legal issues. Dkt. 109 at 3:9. The order denying appeal from confirmation 6 acknowledged that “[a]ppellants raise[d] a number of credible objections to confirmation” and that 7 their “arguments [we]re significant.” Id. at 3:8-10. Here, appellants have met the threshold for the 8 first factor, establishing that their appeal will raise “strong questions going to the merits.” Wild 9 Rockies, 632 F.3d at 1135. For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 11 B. Likely Irreparable Harm Appellants argue that they will suffer three forms of irreparable injury absent a stay. First, 12 they fear that Plan Proponents will substantially implement the plan, including closing on the 13 merger of Plant and Bayside, which will potentially render their appeal moot. In the bankruptcy 14 context, courts within the Ninth Circuit have held that “the risk that an appeal may become moot 15 does not by itself constitute irreparable injury.” In re Fullmer, 323 B.R. 287, 304 (Bankr. D. Nev. 16 2005); see also Red Mountain Machinery Co., 451 B.R. 897, 908 (Bankr. D. Ariz. 2011); In re 17 Irwin, 338 B.R. 839, 853 (E.D. Cal. 2006). Even if the risk of mootness could constitute irreparable 18 injury, appellants have not shown that such risk is likely, but rather merely speculative. The Ninth 19 Circuit recently held in In re Thorpe Insulation Co., 677 F.3d 869 (2012), that the consummation of 20 the plan of reorganization had not mooted the appeal before it. In light of this holding, even if the 21 plan has been substantially performed by the time that appellants’ appeal is heard, appellants have 22 not established that it is likely, rather than just possible, that their appeal would be held to be moot 23 by the Ninth Circuit. 24 Appellants argue that even if the threat of mootness alone is not enough to establish 25 irreparable injury, it can constitute such injury when considered in addition to other harms. 26 Appellants also claim that each additional harm they would suffer would independently constitute 27 an irreparable injury sufficient to support a stay. The first of these is that if the plan becomes 28 effective, Settling Insurers would transfer over $17 million in payments and take the position that NO. C 12-1887 RS ORDER DENYING STAY 4 order is ultimately reversed. The second is that claimants would have incentives to race to the 3 courthouse to file suits against Plant that otherwise would not have been brought given the risk that 4 the confirmation could be reversed by the Ninth Circuit. These are not irreparable injuries sufficient 5 to support the issuance of a stay. Each harm identified is essentially financial in nature. “It is well 6 established, however, that such monetary injury is not normally considered irreparable.” Los 7 Angeles Mem’l Coliseum Comm’n v. N.F.L., 634 F.2d 1197, 1202 (9th Cir. 1980). Additionally, 8 each harm is speculative. It cannot be said that they are likely to occur, because in order for 9 appellants ultimately to suffer the harm feared, independent actors would have to take certain 10 For the Northern District of California they cannot be sued by appellants for contribution as to those amounts even if the confirmation 2 United States District Court 1 actions and legal positions and the courts would have to rule in particular ways on legal issues 11 raised by the resulting situations. Appellants have only shown that an irreparable injury is possible, 12 but not that it is likely. The Supreme Court instructs that in such situations, a stay may not issue. 13 See Nken, 556 U.S. at 435. Therefore, an analysis of the remaining factors, the balance of hardships 14 and the public interest is not necessary. V. CONCLUSION 15 16 17 18 Appellants have failed to demonstrate that it is likely to suffer an irreparable injury. The motion for an emergency stay is denied. IT IS SO ORDERED. 19 20 21 Dated: 11/1/12 RICHARD SEEBORG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 NO. C 12-1887 RS ORDER DENYING STAY 5

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?