David J. Pierce Trust U/A v. Alpha Natural Resources, Inc.

Case Type:
Case Status:
17-1339 (4th Circuit, Feb 20,2018) Not Published
In a per curiam opinion, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the "thorough, well-reasoned opinions" of the Bankruptcy Court and the District Court that the Debtor, Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., could reject an agreement between predecessors in interest to both the Debtor and the appellants pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 365.
Procedural context:
Debtor had moved pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 365 to reject an agreement. Successors-in-interest to the non-debtor party to the agreement ("Objectors") objected , arguing that the agreement conveyed an interest in property that was not subject to termination under § 365. The the Bankruptcy Court held that the agreement at issue constituted a contractual right to periodic payments, did not convey an interest in real property, and rejection of the agreement was within the Debtors' sound business judgment. The Objectors appealed. The District Court affirmed. In re Alpha Natural Res., Inc., 555 B.R. 520 (Bankr. E.D.Va. 2016), aff’d, 237 F. Supp.3d 369 (E.D.Va. 2017). Objectors appealed that decision to the Fourth Circuit.
The agreement, executed in 1969, resolved “certain differences between the Debtor's predecessor and and John and Eunice Organ, the Objectors' predecessors, regarding "certain coal interests involving coal seams in three areas." 555 B.R. at 524. Among other things, the Debtor's predecessor was required to make monthly installment payments to the Organs "based upon a percentage of the coal mined and subsequently sold from each of the three separate areas" until December 31, 2019. The payments at issue were were based on coal the Debtor mined as a tenant on federally owned property. The Debtor sought to assume and assign the federal leases under Section 365(a) and reject the agreement with the Organs. Id. at 525.
Circuit Judges Thacker and Harris and Senior Circuit Judge Shedd.

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