United States District Court, D. Delaware
IN RE TRIBUNE MEDIA COMPANY, et al., Reorganized Debtors.
TRIBUNE MEDIA COMPANY, Appellee. KEITH YOUNGE, Appellant, . Bankruptcy No. 08-13141 (KJC)
before the court is the appeal (D.I. 1) of Keith Younge
("Younge" or "Appellant") from the March
18, 2016 Order and Memorandum Opinion (collectively, the
"Order") of the United States Bankruptcy Court for
the District of Delaware (the "Bankruptcy Court").
For the reasons that follow, the court will affirm the
Bankruptcy Court's Order sustaining the Reorganized
Debtors' ("the Debtors") Objection to Claim No.
core of Younge's claim is that, due to an altercation
with a coworker at WPHL-TV (the "Station"), he was
subjected to a hostile work environment and unlawfully
terminated because of his race. Younge was hired to work at
the Station-a television station in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, that was owned by Tribune Television Company-on
a 30-day probationary period. (Bankr. D.I. 13755 at 3). The
Station hires a part-time summer relief technician to cover
other technician's summer vacation schedules between
Memorial Day and Labor Day. Id. at 20. Younge was
attending training for the summer relief technician position
three to four days per week. Id. On May 7, 2008,
Younge was assigned to train with Rick Schultz from 10:00pm
to 6:00am. Id.
Schultz was an Engineering Technician, hired by the Station
on June 7, 1972. Id. at 57. According to Tribune
Company's Senior Labor Counsel, Kathleen McCabe, the
technicians are union organized-represented by the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local
Number98. Id. at2O. While Schultz's performance
reviews described him as "somewhat volatile and free,
" they also mentioned his positive attributes: He
"work[ed] well with others" and easily formed
relationships with co-workers. Id. at 55-56.
Schultz's personnel file indicated, however, that he had
been in two prior altercations with co-workers. Id.
September 28, 2002, Schultz and Bill Groves got in an
argument at work over union dues. Id. at 62. Shultz
alleged that Groves threatened him during the argument. The
Human Resources Department investigation of the incident
could not corroborate Schultz claim's that Groves
threatened him, but it did find that both parties used
profane language during the altercation. Id. As a
result, Schultz received a letter from the director of
engineering at the Station warning him that his behavior
violated the company's "Zero Tolerance Policy"
and any further behavior of that kind could result in
termination. Id. at 60.
29, 1993, Schultz got in an argument with a security guard at
the Station, George Sample. Mat 58. On the night of June
29th, Schultz accidentally tripped a door alarm.
Id. Sample was angry that Schultz activated the
alarm and an altercation ensued. Id. From
Schultz's letter in his personnel file, it appears that
Sample accused Schultz of making a racist comment.
Id. Schultz vehemently denied any racial animus,
stating that "color has nothing to with improper
behavior." Id. at 59. The letter regarding the
1993 incident was the only mention of discriminatory behavior
in Schultz's personnel file before the altercation with
night of Younge's training with Schultz, the two got into
an argument. Before Younge's training started, technician
Steve Leff, told Younge that "Schultz has a
problem." Id. When Younge asked if it the
problem was with him, Leff replied: "No, he just has a
problem." Id. At around 10:50pm, Schultz walked
into the training room and said to Younge, "Hey, Spike,
you want to get this off the table?" Id. Younge
reported that Schultz was referring to Younge's briefcase
on the table. Id. Younge, assuming that Schultz did
not know his name, introduced himself to Schultz.
Id. Schultz responded, "As far as [I] am
concern[ed] you are Spike Lee." Id. Younge
reported that Schultz made a number of other discriminatory
and insulting comments to him and the situation escalated to
a lot of yelling by both parties. Id. 3-4. Younge
also admitted that some profanity was used. Id. at
37. Eventually, someone called a security officer and the
situation diffused. Id. at 4.
next day, Younge called his supervisor, the Engineering
Manager, and the Human Resources Department to report the
incident. Id. at 4. According to Younge, he was
told: "You should have never had to deal with that; we
have had problems with Schultz before." Id. On
May 8, 2008, Vincent Giannini, the Vice President and General
Manager of the Station, learned about the incident between
Schultz and Younge. (Bankr. D.I. 13715-3 at 4). Giannini
spoke with the Human Resources Coordinator about the results
of her investigation into the incident and he reviewed the
video surveillance footage from the camera located outside of
the training room where the altercation occurred.
Id. Giannini decided that both men should be
discharged. Id. at 6. On May 15, 2008, the Station
sent letters to Younge and Schultz informing them of their
JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
court has appellate jurisdiction to hear all final orders and
judgments from the Bankruptcy Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 158(a)(1). In reviewing a case on appeal, this court
reviews a Bankruptcy Court's findings of fact for clear
error and its conclusions of law de novo. Am. Flint Glass
Workers Union v. Anchor Resolution Corp., 197 F.3d 76,
80 (3d Cir. 1999). Mixed questions of law and fact are
subject to a "mixed standard of review." Mellon
Bank, N.A. v. Metro Comm., Inc., 945 F.2d 635, 641-42
(3d Cir. 1991). Under this "mixed standard of review,
" the appellate court accepts findings of
"historical or narrative facts unless clearly erroneous,
but exercise[s] plenary review of the trial court's
choice and interpretation of legal precepts and its
application of those precepts to historical facts."
Id. at 642 (citation omitted).
disputes the Bankruptcy Court's jurisdiction over his
claims, the procedural rules it applied to his claims, and
its decision on the merits of his claims. After careful
review of the record on appeal, the parties' arguments,
the Bankruptcy Court's order, and the applicable law, the
court has distilled the core questions it must answer: Did
Younge waive his objection to the bankruptcy court's
authority to enter final judgment on his proof of claim and
the objection to it? If he did, therefore making the claim
and the objection to it a core proceeding-as the Bankruptcy
Court found-was this the type of core proceeding where the
Bankruptcy Court had the statutory authority to finally
adjudicate the claim, it lacked the constitutional power to
do so? And if it was a core proceeding where the Bankruptcy
Court could constitutionally enter final judgment, was it
correct in sustaining the Debtors' objection to
Younge's claim? At the expense of suspense, the court
answers those questions as follows: yes, no, and yes.
termination. (Bankr. D.I. 13755 at 66-67). The letters stated
that they were terminated for violating the Station's
Code of Conduct and Anti-Harassment policies. Id.; see
Id. at 28-29, 30 (Anti-Harassment and Standards of
Conduct and Corrective Action policies).
9, 2008, Younge filed a complaint with the Philadelphia
Commission on Human Relations ("PCHR").
Id. at 1. Younge's complaint was also forwarded
to the Philadelphia District Office of the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").
Id. at 8. The EEOC sent Younge a letter stating that
they would refrain from processing the charge until the PCHR
completed its investigation into the issue. (Bankr. D.I.
13755 at 8).
December 8, 2008, Tribune Company and certain of its
affiliates (the "Debtors"), filed Chapter 11
bankruptcy petitions in the United States Bankruptcy Court
for the District of Delaware. (Bankr. D.I. 1). On June 1,
2009, Younge filed his proof of claim for $75, 000. (Bankr.
D.I. 13755 at 70-71). Thereafter, the Bankruptcy Court
entered the Order confirming the Fourth Amended Joint Plan of
Reorganization for Tribune Company and its Subsidiaries.
(Bankr. D.I. 12074). The Plan became effective on December
31, 2012. (Bankr. D.I. 12939). On September 6, 2013, the
Debtors filed an objection to Younge's Proof of Claim.
(Bankr. D.I. 13715). Younge filed a response and the Debtors
filed a reply. (Bankr. D.I. 13755). After a hearing, (Bankr.
D.I. 20-1), the Bankruptcy Court allowed Younge to file a
Supplemental Response, which he did on August 21, 2014.
(Bankr. D.I. 13951). The Debtors then filed another reply on
September 5, 2014. (Bankr. D.I. 13963). At the end of me
hearing, the Bankruptcy Court indicated that it might decide
Younge's claim as a matter of law. (Bankr. D.I. 20-1).
After receiving Younge's Supplemental Response and the
Debtors' reply to it, the Bankruptcy Court issued an
order on March 18, 2016, denying Younge's claim. (D.I.
Waiver and Forfeiture
argues that the decision to allow or deny his claim should
not have been classified as a "core"
proceeding" under 28 U.S.C. § 157(b)(2)(B). Younge
correctly contends that § 157(b)(2)(B) "expressly
excludes 'unliquidated personal injury tort. . .
claims' from bankruptcy jurisdiction." (D.I. 19 at
1). According to Younge, his hostile work environment and
unlawful termination claims are considered personal injury
claims in this context. Id. at 2. Younge argues,
therefore, that under 28 U.S.C § 157(b)(5), the
Bankruptcy Court lacked jurisdiction to hear his claims-the
claims had to be heard by this court or the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Id. The court disagrees.
1984, Congress revised bankruptcy jurisdiction, providing
that "the district courts shall have original but not
exclusive jurisdiction of all civil proceedings arising under
title 11 > or arising in or related to cases under title
11." Bankruptcy Amendments and Federal Judgeship Act of
1984, H.R. 5174, 98th Cong. § 1334(b) (1984). Each
district court was then given the ability to refer all
bankruptcy cases to the bankruptcy courts. 28 U.S.C. §
157(a). In essence, bankruptcy courts became units of the
district courts with jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases,
civil proceedings arising in and under title 11, and matters
relating to cases under title 11. See Id. §
jurisdiction conferred upon the bankruptcy courts is quite
broad. According to the statute, Bankruptcy judges may enter
orders and judgments on "all cases under title 11 and
all core proceedings arising under title 11, or arising in a
case under title 11." § 157(b)(1). The bankruptcy
judge must determine whether a proceeding qualifies as
"core" or whether the proceeding is "otherwise
related to a case under title 11.'" §
157(b)(3). For non-core proceedings, the bankruptcy judge
submits proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to
the district court which will then enter final judgment.
axiomatic that "by. filing a claim against a bankruptcy
estate, the creditor triggers the process of 'allowance
and disallowance of claims, ' thereby subjecting himself
to the court's equitable power." Langenkamp v.
Culp, 498 U.S. 42, 44 (1990). While the "allowance
or disallowance of claims against the estate" are
explicitly defined as "core proceedings" under 28
U.S.C. § 157, the "liquidation or estimation of
contingent or unliquidated personal injury tort or wrongful
death claims against the estate for proposes of
distribution" are excepted from that definition. 28
U.S.C. § 157(b)(2)(B). For personal injury tort or
wrongful death claims, "the district court shall
order" that those claims be "tried in the district
court in which the bankruptcy case is pending, or in the
district court in the district in which the claim
arose." Id. § 157(b)(5).
term "personal injury tort claim" is not expressly
defined in Title 28 or Title 11. Different districts have
taken different approaches to the term's meaning and
scope. Courts adopting the "narrow view" define a
personal injury tort claim as requiring actual physical
injury. In re Cohen,107 B.R. 453, 455 (S.D.N.Y.
1989). Courts adopting the "broad view" find that
personal injury tort claims "embrace  a broad category
of private or civil wrongs or injuries for which a court
provides a remedy in the form of an action for damages."
In re Boyer,93 B.R. 313, 317 (Bankr. N.D.N.Y.
1988). Some courts have declined to adopt either view; they
choose instead to define personal injury tort claims under
the broad view, but allow certain claims-"workplace
claims which might constitute financial, ...