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In re Jackson Masonry, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

October 16, 2018

In re: Jackson Masonry, LLC, Debtor.
v.
Jackson Masonry, LLC, Appellee. Ritzen Group, Incorporated, Appellant,

          Argued: October 4, 2018

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. Nos. 3:17-cv-00806; 3:17-cv-00807-Aleta Arthur Trauger, District Judge.

         United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee; No. 3:16-bk-02065-Keith M. Lundin and Charles M. Walker, Judges.

         ARGUED:

          Shane G. Ramsey, NELSON MULLINS RILEY & SCARBOROUGH, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Henry E. Hildebrand, IV, DUNHAM HILDEBRAND, PLLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Shane G. Ramsey, John T. Baxter, NELSON MULLINS RILEY & SCARBOROUGH, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Henry E. Hildebrand, IV, DUNHAM HILDEBRAND, PLLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: SUTTON, McKEAGUE, and THAPAR, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          THAPAR, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Deadlines matter. Ritzen Group missed two of them: the closing deadline in a contract and the appellate deadline for bankruptcy orders. Accordingly, the district court rejected both of Ritzen's appeals. We affirm.

         I.

         Over five years ago, Ritzen Group contracted to buy a piece of property from Jackson Masonry. But the sale never went through. Ritzen claims Jackson breached by providing error-ridden documentation on the eve of the closing deadline, while Jackson claims Ritzen breached by failing to secure funding by that deadline.

         After the deal failed, Ritzen sued Jackson for breach of contract in Tennessee state court. The case progressed for nearly a year-and-a-half until, about a week before trial, Jackson filed for bankruptcy. As a result of the bankruptcy, the litigation was automatically stayed. 11 U.S.C. § 362. Ritzen filed a motion to lift the stay, which the bankruptcy court denied. Ritzen did not appeal.

         Instead, Ritzen sought to vindicate its rights in bankruptcy court. So Ritzen brought a claim against the bankruptcy estate. It lost. The bankruptcy court found that Ritzen, not Jackson, breached the contract. Ritzen subsequently filed two appeals to the district court. The first targeted the bankruptcy court's order denying relief from the automatic stay. The second targeted the breach-of-contract determination. The district court found that the first appeal was untimely and rejected the second on the merits.

         Now Ritzen appeals again. We review the bankruptcy court's fact findings for abuse of discretion and its legal conclusions de novo. In re Purdy, 870 F.3d 436, 442 (6th Cir. 2017).

         II.

         We start with Ritzen's first appeal contesting the stay order. We begin, as we must, with the text of the bankruptcy appeals statute. Under the statute, a bankruptcy court's order may be immediately appealed if it is (1) "entered in [a] . . . proceeding[]" and (2) "final"-terminating that proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 158(a). An order denying stay relief terminates a proceeding, so it is final. In bankruptcy, parties must appeal final orders within fourteen days of the court's ruling. ...


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