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Oberdick v. Trizechahn Gateway, LLC

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 19, 2017

DAVID G. OBERDICK
v.
TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC R&E HOLDINGS, LLC, SUCCESSOR-BY-MERGER TO TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, INC., TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, LLC, F/K/ATRZ HOLDINGS II, INC., SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST TO TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, KATHLEEN G. KANE, ESQUIRE, TED R. JADWIN, ESQUIRE, NEAL H. LEVIN, ESQUIRE, FREEBORN & PETERS LLP, ALBERT J. ZANGRILLI, JR., ESQUIRE, AND YUKEVICH, MARCHETTI, LIEKAR & ZANGRILLI, P.C., SALLY G. OBERDICK
v.
TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC R&E HOLDINGS, LLC, SUCCESSOR-BY-MERGER TO TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC HOLDING II, INC., TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, LLC, f/k/aTRZ HOLDINGS II, Inc., SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST TO TRIZENCHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, KATHLEEN G. KANE, ESQUIRE, TED R. JADWIN, ESQUIRE, NEAL H. LEVIB, ESQUIRE, FREEBORN & PETERS LLP, ALBERT J. ZANGRILLI, Jr., ESQUIRE, AND YUKEVICH, MARCHETTI, LIEKAR & ZANGRILLI, P.C., APPEAL OF: TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC R&E HOLDINGS, LLC, SUCCESSOR-BY-MERGER TO TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, INC., TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, LLC, f/k/a TRZ HOLDINGS II, INC., SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST TOTRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, KATHLEEN G. KANE, ESQUIRE, TED R. JADWIN, ESQUIRE, NEAL H. LEVIN, ESQUIRE, FREEBORN & PETERS LLP, ALBERT J. ZANGRILLI, JR., ESQUIRE, and YUKEVICH, MARCHETTI LIEKAR & ZANGRILLI, P.C. DAVID G. OBERDICK
v.
TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC R&E HOLDINGS, LLC, SUCCESSOR-BY-MERGER TO TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, INC., TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, LLC, F/K/ATRZ HOLDINGS II, INC., SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST TO TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, KATHLEEN G. KANE, ESQUIRE, TED R. JADWIN, ESQUIRE, NEAL H. LEVIN, ESQUIRE, FREEBORN & PETERS LLP, ALBERT J. ZANGRILLI, JR., ESQUIRE, AND YUKEVICH, MARCHETTI, LIEKAR & ZANGRILLI, P.C., SALLY G. OBERDICK
v.
TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC R&E HOLDINGS, LLC, SUCCESSOR-BY-MERGER TO TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC HOLDING II, INC., TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, LLC, f/k/aTRZ HOLDINGS II, Inc., SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST TO TRIZENCHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, KATHLEEN G. KANE, ESQUIRE, TED R. JADWIN, ESQUIRE, NEAL H. LEVIB, ESQUIRE, FREEBORN & PETERS LLP, ALBERT J. ZANGRILLI, Jr., ESQUIRE, AND YUKEVICH, MARCHETTI, LIEKAR & ZANGRILLI, P.C., APPEAL OF: TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC R&E HOLDINGS, LLC, SUCCESSOR-BY-MERGER TO TRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, INC., TRIZEC HOLDINGS II, LLC, f/k/a TRZ HOLDINGS II, INC., SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST TOTRIZECHAHN GATEWAY, LLC, KATHLEEN G. KANE, ESQUIRE, TED R. JADWIN, ESQUIRE, NEAL H. LEVIN, ESQUIRE, FREEBORN & PETERS LLP, ALBERT J. ZANGRILLI, JR., ESQUIRE, and YUKEVICH, MARCHETTI LIEKAR & ZANGRILLI, P.C.

         Appeal from the Order entered April 19, 2016, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Civil Division at No(s): GD 15-4365, GD 15-4384

          BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., BENDER, P.J.E., and MOULTON, J.

          OPINION

          BENDER, P.J.E.

         Appellants, TrizecHahn Gateway, LLC, Trizec R&E Holdings, LLC, successor-by-merger to TrizecHahn Gateway, LLC, Trizec Holdings II, Inc., Trizec Holdings II, LLC, f/k/a TRZ Holdings II, Inc., successor-in-interest to TrizecHahn Gateway, LLC (referred to collectively as "Trizec"), Kathleen G. Kane, Esq., Ted R. Jadwin, Esq., Neal H. Levin, Esq., Freeborn & Peters LLP, Albert J. Zangrilli, Jr., Esq., and Yukevich, Marchetti, Liekar & Zangrilli, P.C. (jointly referred to as "Appellants"), appeal from the April 19, 2016 order, denying their motion for summary judgment. After careful review, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         We glean the following facts and procedural history from the record. Trizec was the landlord of David G. Oberdick's ("Mr. Oberdick") former law firm. Trizec obtained a $3.3 million judgment against Mr. Oberdick and his partners for unpaid rent, after they abandoned their office lease and refused to pay the outstanding rent.[1] In 2007, as part of its collection efforts, Trizec brought a claim against Mr. Oberdick and his wife, Sally G. Oberdick ("Mrs. Oberdick") (collectively "the Oberdicks"), in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County under the Pennsylvania Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act ("PaUFTA") (referred to as "UFTA action"). The Oberdicks filed preliminary objections to the complaint in the UFTA action.

         On January 23, 2008, before the UFTA action proceeded any further in state court, Mr. Oberdick filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The UFTA action was subsequently removed to the bankruptcy court, at the Oberdicks' request, and was litigated therein as an adversary proceeding ("UFTA adversary action").[2] After the parties engaged in litigation of some preliminary matters, Trizec filed an Amended Complaint on February 14, 2010. See Bankruptcy Court Opinion ("BCO"), 3/26/13, at 4.[3] The bankruptcy trustee was then substituted for Trizec as the plaintiff in the UFTA adversary action. After extensive litigation, the bankruptcy court entered judgment on March 26, 2013, in favor of the Oberdicks, and dismissed the UFTA adversary action in its entirety.

         In March of 2015, after termination of the bankruptcy case, the Oberdicks each brought a one-count complaint against Appellants under the Dragonetti Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8351, et seq.[4] On September 28, 2015, the Oberdicks each filed amended complaints in their respective cases. Thereafter, the two matters were consolidated (hereinafter referred to as "Dragonetti action").[5] Appellants moved for summary judgment and averred that the Oberdicks' claims are preempted by the Bankruptcy Code. By order dated April 19, 2016, the trial court denied Appellants' motion for summary judgment.[6]

         On May 25, 2016, Appellants filed a timely notice of appeal at Docket No. 745 WDA 2016, seeking review of the denial of summary judgment as a collateral order, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 313. On June 17, 2016, Appellants separately filed a petition for permission to appeal at Docket No. 66 WDM 2016, seeking review of the same order as a discretionary appeal from an interlocutory order, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1311.[7] By per curiam order dated August 9, 2016, this Court granted Appellants' petition for permission to appeal and consolidated the two appeals at Docket No. 745 WDA 2016.[8]

         Herein, Trizec presents the following questions for our review:

1. [Trizec] filed fraudulent-transfer claims against [the Oberdicks] in state court, which [the Oberdicks] removed to bankruptcy court after one of them filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition. The Bankruptcy Code and Rules preempt state-law wrongful-use-of-civil-proceedings claims based on litigation in bankruptcy court. Where [the Oberdicks] removed the underlying action to bankruptcy court before pleadings closed and thereafter litigated exclusively in bankruptcy court, do the Bankruptcy Code and Rules preempt any state-law wrongful-use-of-civil-proceedings claim?
2. [The Oberdicks] filed wrongful-use-of-civil-proceedings claims based on fraudulent transfer litigation that they removed to bankruptcy court, and which were litigated there by the bankruptcy trustee. The federal Barton [D]octrine bars actions against bankruptcy trustees, trustee's counsel, and other officers of the court without the bankruptcy court's leave. Did [the Oberdicks] have to obtain leave to pursue their action against a creditor, and its attorneys, that, among other things, financed the trustee's litigation, and therefore functioned as the equivalent of court-appointed officers?
3. [Appellants] were denied summary judgment based on the federal Barton Doctrine. Pennsylvania courts have previously recognized that an order denying summary judgment based on a complete federal defense to a state law claim is appealable as a collateral order. Is the denial of summary judgment based on the Barton Doctrine defense appealable as a collateral order?

Appellants' Brief at 3-4.

         Our standard of review with respect to a trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion for summary judgment is well-settled:

A reviewing court may disturb the order of the trial court only where it is established that the court committed an error of law or abused its discretion. As with all questions of law, our review is plenary.
In evaluating the trial court's decision to enter summary judgment, we focus on the legal standard articulated in the summary judgment rule. Pa.R.C.P. 1035.2. The rule states that where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to relief as a matter of law, summary judgment may be entered. Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof of an issue, he may not merely rely on his pleadings or answers in order to survive summary judgment. Failure of a non-moving party to adduce sufficient evidence on an issue essential to his case and on which it bears the burden of proof establishes the entitlement of the moving party to judgment as a matter of law. Lastly, we will ...

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