In re Coachworks Holdings, Inc., Ch. 11 Case No. 09-51096, 2009 Bankr. LEXIS 3369 (Bankr. M.D. Ga. Oct. 16, 2009). Movant filed a motion for relief to pursue employment claims against the debtor and non-debtor parties. Debtor opposed, contending the claims should be resolved in Bankruptcy Court based primarily on the expense of litigating in District Court.
The Court lifted the stay based on judicial economy, the existence of other defendants, and the need for a jury trial against the non-debtor defendants.
Debtor’s argument as to prejudice–e.g., the expense of litigation–is somewhat negated by its argument that Debtor has failed to state a claim. If Debtor is correct that Mr. Ellerbee’s complaint lacks substance, the district court can dispense with it efficiently, with respect to time, money, and other resources, on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Consequently, any prejudice to Debtor is minimal.
On the other hand, at least two factors weigh heavily in Mr. Ellerbee’s favor: judicial economy and the existence of other defendants. Even assuming Mr. Ellerbee waived any right he has to a jury trial against Debtor due to his participation in the bankruptcy proceedings, he is entitled to a jury trial against the non-debtor defendants, who also retain jury trial rights. This point is particularly significant as it relates to DT Carson. Because DT Carson and Debtor were joint employers of Mr. Ellerbee, the cases against them are likely to revolve around similar–if not identical–issues and evidence. If the Court grants stay relief, Mr. Ellerbee will have to prosecute what amounts to the same case in two different forums, with the possibility of inconsistent results. "[P]rinciples of judicial economy require that, without good reason, judicial resources should not be spent by duplicitous litigation, and that a lawsuit should only be tried once, if one forum with jurisdiction over all parties involved is available to fully dispose of all issues relating to the lawsuit…"
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