In re Outboard Marine Corp., Bankruptcy No. 00-B-37405.

CourtUnited States Bankruptcy Courts. Seventh Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Northern District of Illinois
Writing for the CourtJohn H. Squires
Citation299 B.R. 488
PartiesIn re OUTBOARD MARINE CORPORATION, et al., Debtors. Alex D. Moglia, Chapter 7 Trustee for Outboard Marine Corporation, et al., Plaintiff, v. Inland Plywood Company, Defendant.
Decision Date11 September 2003
Docket NumberBankruptcy No. 00-B-37405.,Adversary No. 03-A-02109.
299 B.R. 488
In re OUTBOARD MARINE CORPORATION, et al., Debtors.
Alex D. Moglia, Chapter 7 Trustee for Outboard Marine Corporation, et al., Plaintiff,
v.
Inland Plywood Company, Defendant.
Bankruptcy No. 00-B-37405.
Adversary No. 03-A-02109.
United States Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division.
September 11, 2003.

Page 489

Kathleen H. Klaus, Esq., Mark L. Radtke, Esq., Shaw Gussis Fishman Glantz Wolfson & Towbin, LLC, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Stephen M. Gross, Esq., William E. Hawley, Esq., Lindahl Gross Lievois, P.C., Bingham Farms, MI, for Defendant.

Alex Moglia, Esq., Alex D. Moglia & Associates, Inc., Schaumburg, IL, trustee.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN H. SQUIRES, Bankruptcy Judge.


This matter comes before the Court on the motion of Inland Plywood Company ("Inland") for partial summary judgment and the cross-motion of Alex D. Moglia, the Chapter 7 Trustee for Outboard Marine Corporation and its related debtor entities (the "Trustee"), for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 7056 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court finds that 11 U.S.C. § 546(a) is a true statute of limitations that was tolled by the parties and, accordingly, denies Inland's motion but grants the Trustee's motion. Inland's fourth affirmative defense is dismissed.

Page 490

I. JURISDICTION AND PROCEDURE

The Court has jurisdiction to entertain this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1334 and Internal Operating Procedure 15(a) of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. It is a core proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 157(b)(2)(F).

II. APPLICABLE STANDARDS

A. Summary Judgment

In order to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must meet the statutory criteria set forth in Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, made applicable to adversary proceedings by Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 7056. Rule 56(c) reads in part:

The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See also Dugan v. Smerwick Sewerage Co., 142 F.3d 398, 402 (7th Cir.1998).

The primary purpose for granting a summary judgment motion is to avoid unnecessary trials when there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute. Trautvetter v. Quick, 916 F.2d 1140, 1147 (7th Cir.1990); Farries v. Stanadyne/Chicago Div., 832 F.2d 374, 378 (7th Cir.1987), quoting Wainwright Bank & Trust Co. v. Railroadmens Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n of Indianapolis, 806 F.2d 146, 149 (7th Cir.1986). Where the material facts are not in dispute, the sole issue is whether the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. ANR Advance Transp. Co. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Local 710, 153 F.3d 774, 777 (7th Cir.1998). In 1986, the United States Supreme Court decided a trilogy of cases which encourages the use of summary judgment as a means to dispose of factually unsupported claims. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). The burden is on the moving party to show that no genuine issue of material fact is in dispute. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 585-86, 106 S.Ct. 1348.

All reasonable inferences drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Parkins v. Civil Constructors of Ill., Inc., 163 F.3d 1027, 1032 (7th Cir.1998). The existence of a material factual dispute is sufficient only if the disputed fact is determinative of the outcome under applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Frey v. Fraser Yachts, 29 F.3d 1153, 1156 (7th Cir.1994). "[S]ummary judgment is not an appropriate occasion for weighing the evidence; rather, the inquiry is limited to determining if there is a genuine issue for trial." Lohorn v. Michal, 913 F.2d 327, 331 (7th Cir.1990). The Seventh Circuit has noted that trial courts must remain sensitive to fact issues where they are actually demonstrated to warrant denial of summary judgment. Opp v. Wheaton Van Lines, Inc., 231 F.3d 1060, 1065-66 (7th Cir.2000); Szymanski v. Rite-Way Maint. Co., Inc., 231 F.3d 360, 364 (7th Cir.2000).

The party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, identifying those portions of the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,

Page 491

and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Once the motion is supported by a prima facie showing that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, a party opposing the motion may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials in its pleadings; rather its response must show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348; Patrick v. Jasper County, 901 F.2d 561, 565 (7th Cir.1990). The manner in which this showing can be made depends upon which party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial. If the burden of persuasion at trial would be on the non-moving party, the party moving for summary judgment may satisfy Rule 56's burden of production either by submitting affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the non-moving party's claim or by demonstrating that the non-moving party's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Union Nat'l Bank of Marseilles v. Leigh (In re Leigh), 165 B.R. 203, 213 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.1993) (citation omitted).

Rule 56(d) provides for the situation when judgment is not rendered upon the whole case, but only a portion thereof. The relief sought pursuant to subsection (d) is styled partial summary judgment. Partial summary judgment is available to dispose of only one or more counts of the complaint in their entirety. Commonwealth Ins. Co. of N.Y. v. O. Henry Tent & Awning Co., 266 F.2d 200, 201 (7th Cir.1959); Biggins v. Oltmer Iron Works, 154 F.2d 214, 216-17 (7th Cir.1946); Quintana v. Byrd, 669 F.Supp. 849, 850 (N.D.Ill.1987); Arado v. General Fire Extinguisher Corp., 626 F.Supp. 506, 509 (N.D.Ill.1985); Capitol Records, Inc. v. Progress Record Distrib. Inc., 106 F.R.D. 25, 28 (N.D.Ill.1985); Strandell v. Jackson County, Ill., 648 F.Supp. 126, 136 (S.D.Ill.1986); In re Network 90 Degrees, Inc., 98 B.R. 821, 831 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.1989). Rule 56(d) provides a method whereby a court can narrow issues and facts for trial after denying in whole or in part a motion properly brought under Rule 56. Capitol Records, 106 F.R.D. at 29. In the case at bar, the Trustee and Inland seek partial summary judgment as their motions relate only to Inland's fourth affirmative defense.

The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Each motion must be ruled on independently and must be denied if there are genuine issues of material fact. ITT Indus. Credit Co. v. D.S. America, Inc., 674 F.Supp. 1330, 1331 (N.D.Ill.1987). Cross-motions for summary judgment do not require the Court to decide the case on the motions; the Court can deny both motions if both parties have failed to meet the burden of establishing that any genuine issue of material fact exists and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.; Pettibone Corp. v. Ramirez (In re Pettibone Corp.), 90 B.R. 918, 922 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.1988).

Summary judgment is appropriate in cases involving the interpretation of contractual documents. Stenograph Corp. v. Fulkerson, 972 F.2d 726, 728 (7th Cir.1992); Ryan v. Chromalloy Am. Corp., 877 F.2d 598, 602 (7th Cir.1989). "[S]ummary judgment should be entered only if the pertinent provisions of the contractual documents are unambiguous; it is the lack of ambiguity within the express terms of the contract that forecloses any genuine issues of material fact." Ryan, 877 F.2d at 602 (citation omitted). Construing the language of a contract is a question of law appropriate for summary judgment, unless the contract is ambiguous.

Page 492

Reaver v. Rubloff-Sterling, L.P., 303 Ill.App.3d 578, 581, 236 Ill.Dec. 973, 708 N.E.2d 559, 561 (3d Dist.), appeal denied, 184 Ill.2d 573, 239 Ill.Dec. 614, 714 N.E.2d 533 (1999); Ford v. Dovenmuehle Mortgage, Inc., 273 Ill.App.3d 240, 244, 209 Ill.Dec. 573, 651 N.E.2d 751, 754 (1st Dist.1995) (citations omitted). These points are pertinent to the motions at bar because the parties entered into a contractual agreement (and, subsequently, an amendment to that agreement) that purportedly tolled the applicable statute of limitations (the "Tolling Agreement").

Local Bankruptcy Rule 7056-1 of the Local Bankruptcy Rules for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois, which deals with summary judgment motions, was modeled after LR56.1 of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Hence, the case law construing LR56.1 and its predecessor Local Rule 12 applies to Local Bankruptcy Rule 7056-1.

Pursuant to Local Bankruptcy Rule 7056-1, a motion for summary judgment imposes special procedural burdens on the parties. Specifically, the Rule requires the moving party to supplement its motion and supporting memorandum with a statement of undisputed material facts ("7056-1 statement"). The 7056-1 statement "shall consist of short numbered paragraphs, including within each...

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3 practice notes
  • Litzler v. Cooper (In re Margaux Tex. Ventures, Inc.), CASE NO. 10–31786–SGJ–7
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fifth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Northern District of Texas
    • May 22, 2014
    ...subject to the doctrines of waiver, equitable tolling and equitable estoppel); Moglia v. Inland Plywood Co. (In re Outboard Marine Corp.), 299 B.R. 488, 496–97 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.2003)(stating that the clear weight of recent authority bolsters the conclusion that § 546(a)is a true statute of li......
  • In re Martin Levy of Berlin D.M.D., P.C., Bankruptcy No. 06-40463-HJB.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. First Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Massachusetts
    • June 11, 2009
    ...to the doctrines of waiver, equitable tolling and equitable estoppel); Moglia v. Inland Plywood Co. (In re Outboard Marine Corp. et al.), 299 B.R. 488, 496-97 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.2003)(stating that "[t]he clear weight of recent authority bolsters the conclusion that § 546(a) is a true statu......
  • In re Thermoview Industries, Inc., Bankruptcy No. 05-37123.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Sixth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Kentucky
    • January 23, 2008
    ...Sixth Circuit itself."); In re Commercial Financial Services, Inc., 294 B.R. 164 (Bankr.N.D.Okla.2003); In re Outboard Marine Corp., 299 B.R. 488, 498 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.2003). As can be seen, the Defendant's reliance upon Butcher is misplaced. Finally, while this Court acknowledges its du......
3 cases
  • Litzler v. Cooper (In re Margaux Tex. Ventures, Inc.), CASE NO. 10–31786–SGJ–7
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fifth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Northern District of Texas
    • May 22, 2014
    ...subject to the doctrines of waiver, equitable tolling and equitable estoppel); Moglia v. Inland Plywood Co. (In re Outboard Marine Corp.), 299 B.R. 488, 496–97 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.2003)(stating that the clear weight of recent authority bolsters the conclusion that § 546(a)is a true statute of li......
  • In re Martin Levy of Berlin D.M.D., P.C., Bankruptcy No. 06-40463-HJB.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. First Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Massachusetts
    • June 11, 2009
    ...to the doctrines of waiver, equitable tolling and equitable estoppel); Moglia v. Inland Plywood Co. (In re Outboard Marine Corp. et al.), 299 B.R. 488, 496-97 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.2003)(stating that "[t]he clear weight of recent authority bolsters the conclusion that § 546(a) is a true statute of......
  • In re Thermoview Industries, Inc., Bankruptcy No. 05-37123.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Sixth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Kentucky
    • January 23, 2008
    ...the Sixth Circuit itself."); In re Commercial Financial Services, Inc., 294 B.R. 164 (Bankr.N.D.Okla.2003); In re Outboard Marine Corp., 299 B.R. 488, 498 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.2003). As can be seen, the Defendant's reliance upon Butcher is misplaced. Finally, while this Court acknowledges its dut......

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