The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY U.S. District Judge
Friday, 27 July, 2012 01:54:43 PM
Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
This case was submitted to this court by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of Illinois (Bankruptcy case No. 11- 90716) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 157(c). Following this court's careful de novo review, this court enters judgment in favor of Defendant, Terry Quigley (Quigley), and against Plaintiff, Patricia Sue Dawson (Dawson).
Dawson operated a business known as "Patti's Haircutting Cabin" in Pontiac, Illinois. She leased the premises for the operation of her salon from Quigley. Dawson leased the premises from Quigley for approximately eight years before she relocated her business prior to this suit. On April 14, 2011, Dawson filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Central District of Illinois. After Dawson filed for bankruptcy, Quigley removed Dawson's sign indicating she had moved her business to a new location and he posted signs in Dawson's former leased premises which said "out of business" and "filed chapter 7 bankruptcy."
On April 26, 2011, Dawson filed a four-count Complaint against Quigley in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Central District of Illinois. Dawson sought an injunction prohibiting Quigley from displaying signs, advertising, or otherwise attempting to collect on a debt owed by her (Count I). Dawson alleged that Quigley was in violation of an automatic stay pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 362(a) (Count II). Dawson also alleged that Quigley committed tortious interference with her economic interest (Count III). Dawson further alleged that Quigley committed libel and/or defamation (Count IV).
On April 27, 2011, Dawson filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction which was granted by the Bankruptcy Court on May 3, 2011. The Bankruptcy Court's Order enjoined and restrained Quigley from:
a) Displaying signs, advertising, or otherwise communicating to the public or in a manner likely to reach the public, that the Plaintiff is no longer operating her business, is "out of business," or similar statements; and
b) Displaying signs, advertising or otherwise communicating to the public or in a manner likely to reach the public, that the Plaintiff's business has filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy; and
c) Taking any action in an attempt to collect on debts listed in the Plaintiff's bankruptcy schedules, including harassing or otherwise communicating with the Plaintiff or her customers about those debts, at all places and times, and especially at the Plaintiff's new place of business.
Quigley removed all offending signs and communication prior to the Bankruptcy Court's entry of its Order granting Dawson's Motion for Preliminary Injunction.
On December 19, 2011, a brief trial was held on Dawson's four-count Complaint. The only witnesses at trial were Dawson and Quigley. Dawson's four exhibits were admitted into evidence without objection. At the close of the trial, the Bankruptcy Court found in favor of Quigley on all four counts of Dawson's Complaint. On December 22, 2011, the Bankruptcy Court issued a written Order setting out its findings. The court found that Dawson did not establish any monetary damages as a result of Quigley's actions regarding Count I of the complaint. The court also found that the Dawson failed to establish any willful violation of the automatic stay regarding Count II of the complaint. The court further found that there was no evidence that Dawson suffered any economic loss as a result of Quigley's actions and that Dawson wholly failed to establish any claim for Count III. Finally, the court found that Dawson's testimony alone was insufficient to establish a claim of libel and/or defamation and that she did not establish any economic loss or monetary damages as a result of Quigley's actions.
On January 3, 2012, Dawson filed a Motion to Reconsider, Amend or Vacate Judgment requesting that findings of facts and conclusions of law be amended or reconsidered regarding her libel and/or defamation claim (Count IV). Dawson also argued that the court should reconsider and amend its findings of facts and conclusions of law regarding Counts I-III. Dawson further argued that the Bankruptcy Court lacked jurisdiction to enter a final judgment regarding her libel and/or defamation claim following the Supreme Court's decision in Stern v. Marshall, 131 S. Ct. 2594 (2011).
On March 15, 2012, the Bankruptcy Court entered an Opinion. The court stated that it had jurisdiction to enter a final judgment on Counts I through III of Dawson's complaint. The court also stated that Dawson ...