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In re Olick

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 8, 2013

In re THOMAS OLICK, Debtor.
v.
City of Easton et al., Defendants-Appellees. THOMAS OLICK, Plaintiff-Appellant,

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM H. YOHN, Jr., District Judge.

This bankruptcy appeal arises from an adversary proceeding brought by Thomas Olick against the City of Easton, Northampton County, Portnoff Law Associates Ltd., Sal Panto, Howard White, and William Murphy.[1] Olick appeals from the bankruptcy court's March 8, 2013 order making findings of fact detailing the provisions of the parties' settlement reached on December 13, 2012 and articulated in open court on the record that date.[2] Olick claims that the bankruptcy court erred because: (1) the December 13, 2012 settlement was only a tentative settlement and not final, and (2) the March 8, 2013 order included a nonparty, the Olick Family Trust, that was not a party to the agreement. For the reasons that follow, I will affirm the bankruptcy court's March 8, 2013 order.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[3]

The March 8, 2013 order sets forth the details of the December 13, 2012 settlement between Olick and the defendants. As litigation between the parties is extensive, there are numerous bankruptcy court and state court actions that are part of the March 8, 2013 settlement order that Olick is appealing; accordingly, I have detailed them below.

Olick filed the underlying bankruptcy case under docket number 07-10880 on February 9, 2007. (Bankr. No. 07-10880, Doc. No. 1.) On June 8, 2012, Olick initiated an adversary proceeding in the bankruptcy court against the City of Easton, docketed as Adv. No. 12-00444. On October 10, 2012, Olick initiated an additional adversary action against the defendants, including Northampton County, docketed as Adv. No. 12-00628, by removing an action then pending in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Olick initiated the underlying adversary proceeding, docketed as Adv. No. 12-00631, on October 11, 2012. The December 13, 2012 settlement hearing was initiated to discuss these three adversary proceedings. (Appellant's Br. Ex. 1, Dec. 13, 2012 Tr. at p. 6.)

Before Olick filed the above adversary actions against the defendants, he had already filed three adversary proceedings in the bankruptcy court. The first proceeding-docked as Adv. No. 08-00264-was filed by Olick on or about September 22, 2008, against the City of Easton, the Northampton County Tax Claim Bureau, Easton Area School District, and Northampton County. On July 27, 2009, Olick initiated an adversary proceeding against the City of Easton and Becky Bradley, docketed as Adv. No. 09-00235. Olick initiated an adversary proceeding on October 7, 2009, against the City of Easton, Northampton County, Palmer Township, and Easton Area School District, which was docketed as Adv. No. 09-00312.

In addition to the bankruptcy court proceedings, before the December 13, 2012 settlement conference, Olick, the defendants, and certain other parties including the Olick Family Trust and David and Matthew Olick ("Olick's sons"), were litigants in various actions pending in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (hereinafter jointly referred to as the "State Court Litigation").

The above adversary actions in bankruptcy court and the State Court litigation all involve real estate tax issues surrounding two properties located in Easton, Pennsylvania: 1209-15 Chidsey Street (which Olick has described as the "Lot"), and 1220-22 Chidsey Street (which Olick has described as the "Rental Property"). (Appellant's Br. at 1.) While neither party details the facts surrounding the litigation for the taxes on these two properties, it seems that the City of Easton brought actions against Olick, the Olick Family Trust, and Matthew and David Olick, for delinquent real estate taxes on the Lot and the Rental Property. ( Id. ) In his adversary proceedings, however, Olick claims that the City of Easton "has been misapplying and/or failing to credit the real estate tax payments made on the Plaintiff's Properties." (Appellant's Reply Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Appeal ("Appellant's Reply Br.") at. 1.) Olick states, without documentary proof, that he and the Olick Family Trust- for which he is the Trustee and his children Matthew and David Olick are the beneficiaries- are the owners of the Lot. ( Id. ) Olick claims that he and Matthew and David Olick are the owners of the Rental Property.[4] ( Id. )

On December 13, 2012, the bankruptcy court held a settlement conference for the three recent adversary proceedings: Adv. No. 12-00444, Adv. No. 12-00628, and Adv. No. 12-00631. (Appellant's Br. Ex. 1, Dec. 13, 2012 Tr. at p. 6.) Olick and two attorneys representing all defendants, except for Northampton County, in the three recent adversary actions were present at the settlement conference. ( Id. at p. 6-7.) The bankruptcy judge specifically noted that Northampton County was not a party to the settlement conference and thus, the settlement would not apply to Northampton County. ( Id. at p. 7.) The bankruptcy judge spoke with Olick and the parties off the record for a significant amount of time to discuss settlement, which was eventually achieved. ( Id. )

After the off-the-record discussion, the bankruptcy judge placed the agreement on the record and stated that "the purpose of going on the record at this point is to put on the record that a settlement has been achieved." ( Id. ) He then detailed what was going to occur on the record by stating, "What I will do is, I will put on the record what I understand the terms of the settlement, and give the parties a chance to comment, correct, or hopefully affirm that I've accurately stated the settlement." ( Id. at p. 8.) The bankruptcy judge then stated what the terms of the settlement were to resolve Olick's claims in the three recent adversary proceedings-Adv. No. 12-00444, Adv. No. 12-00628, and Adv. No. 12-00631. Specifically, the bankruptcy judge explained that the terms included the City of Easton writing a check to Olick for the amount that Easton had claimed Olick owed in delinquent real estate taxes through 2011. Then Olick would return the check to the City of Easton. ( Id. at p. 8-9.) The City of Easton would also pay Olick one hundred dollars, and it would not be allowed to collect the real estate taxes on the Lot and the Rental property through 2011 that were subject to the settlement. ( Id. )

The bankruptcy judge and the parties discussed how the settlement would effect the other proceedings regarding the real estate taxes on the Lot and the Rental Property, including the State Court Litigation. The colloquy is as follows:

Mr. Daday: I would have to actually check the dockets, Your Honor, because I know he filed a couple of different actions.
The Court: All right. You would agree, Mr. Olick, just for the sake of the record, that this is a settlement of all of the disputes relating to the taxes on this property? Mr. Olick: My understanding is this is entered into ...

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