United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
For Emiko Board, Appellant: Travis Alan Knobbe, LEAD ATTORNEY, Spilman Thomas & Battle PLLC, Roanoke, VA.
For AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc., Appellee: Sarah Beckett Boehm, LEAD ATTORNEY, McGuireWoods LLP (Richmond), Richmond, VA; John Henry Maddock, III, McGuireWoods LLP, Richmond, VA.
John A. Gibney, Jr., United States District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on appeal from an order of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia entered on November 18, 2014. The Bankruptcy Court denied the appellant Emiko Board's (" Board" ) Motion for Declaration that Discharge Injunction Is Not Applicable or, in the Alternative, for Extension of Time Within Which to Make Application for Payment of Administrative Expense Claim. In re AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc., 520 B.R. 185 (Bankr. E.D. Va. 2014). Specifically, Board sought a declaration that would allow her to pursue a tort claim against the appellee AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc. (" AMF" ), the reorganized debtors in the proceeding below.
Judge Kevin R. Huennekens held a hearing on the matter, and on November 18, 2014, held that, because Board was an unknown creditor, she was entitled only to constructive notice of the date by which she had to file her administrative claim against AMF. Further, Judge Huennekens determined that Board received constitutionally sufficient notice of the deadline by which she had to file her claim against AMF and that she failed to show good cause for an extension of that deadline. Board now appeals that decision to this Court, specifically challenging the conclusions that she was an unknown creditor and that the notice published by AMF met constitutional due process standards.
The Court will dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before the Court, and argument would not aid in the decisional process. Based on an extensive review of the record, the Court concludes that Board was an unknown creditor and, thus, was entitled to only constructive notice of the administrative claims bar date. Moreover, AMF's notice published in The Wall Street Journal and The Richmond Times Dispatch met the requirements of due process. Accordingly, the Court affirms the Order of the Bankruptcy Court.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On January 27, 2013, an underage drunk driver crashed into Board's car in Tarrant County, Texas, severely injuring her. Allegedly, the drunk driver had been served alcohol at AMF's Tarrant County bowling alley, AMF Euless Lanes. As a result of the accident, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (" TABC" ) launched an investigation into AMF Euless Lanes to decide whether the bowling alley sold alcohol to a minor and, if so, how that could affect its liquor license. Enforcement agent Andrew Norton led the investigation and visited AMF Euless Lanes on March 1, 2013; March 15, 2013; and March 23, 2013. Although the investigation focused solely on the bowling alley's compliance with state alcohol laws, Norton mentioned to general manager Rusty Dickinson Board's identity as the victim of the car crash and the kinds of injuries she sustained. That investigation closed in April 2013. Eleven months later, in March 2014, Board filed a law suit in Texas state court against AMF for serving the underage drunk driver that caused her injuries.
Unbeknownst to Board, however, AMF had been undergoing bankruptcy proceedings for nearly sixteen months. On November 13, 2012, AMF and its associated companies filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. The Bankruptcy Court confirmed their Third Modified Joint Plan of Reorganization on June 25, 2013, with an effective date of July 1, 2013. As relevant to Board's predicament, the Plan called for any administrative claimant, which included a plaintiff
holding a claim against AMF that arose after the petition but before the Plan's effective date (i.e., between November 13, 2012, and July 1, 2013), to file his or her claim no later than August 15, 2013 (the " administrative claims bar date" ), or else lose it forever. AMF published notice of this deadline in The Wall Street Journal and The Richmond Times Dispatch on July 12, 2013.
In the Texas litigation, AMF asked the state court to dismiss Board's case on the basis that she failed to file her post-petition, pre-effective-date claim before August 15, 2013. Rather than dismiss the case, however, the Texas state court stayed the matter on September 17, 2014, in order to allow Board to seek clarification of her rights in the Bankruptcy Court. On that same day, Board filed the motion on appeal in this case with the Bankruptcy Court, specifically asking for a declaration that she was not subject to the administrative claims bar date or, in the alternative, granting an extension of time to file her administrative claim.
After holding a hearing on November 5, 2014, the Bankruptcy Court entered an order and opinion denying the motion. ...