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Robertson v. Isomedix, Inc. (In re International Nutronics)

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

April 12, 1993, Argued, Submitted, San Francisco, California ; June 27, 1994

No. 91-15253



CANBY, Circuit Judge:

In this case, we must decide whether bid-rigging and antitrust claims brought by a trustee on behalf of a bankrupt estate are barred by the res judicata effect of a bankruptcy court's sale order.


International Nutronics, Inc., the estate in  [**2]  bankruptcy, was in the business of sterilizing medical instruments and other equipment by gamma radiation. The sterilization process involved the use of cobalt-60, an isotope of cobalt. Cobalt-60 is expensive and difficult to acquire. It is highly radioactive, decaying rapidly and losing its value as a source of gamma radiation. It poses significant health risks.

At the time it filed for bankruptcy, Nutronics was in possession of two quantities of partially decayed cobalt-60. One was located at Nutronics' facility in Irvine, California; the other, at Nutronics' facility in Palo Alto, California.

In November 1987, plaintiff-appellant Robertson, Nutronics' Trustee in bankruptcy, solicited bids for the cobalt-60. Defendant-appellees Isomedix and Radiation Sterilizers, Inc. (RSI), competitors in the radiation sterilization business, submitted separate bids. Isomedix offered to pay seventy cents per curie, 2 or about $ 600,000, for the Irvine cobalt-60. RSI offered to buy the Irvine cobalt-60 for sixty-five cents per curie, curies to be measured by the isotope's radioactivity at the time of delivery three months later. RSI subsequently amended its bid, offering to pay 102% of the amount [**3]  any competing bidder offered. Neither Isomedix nor RSI offered to purchase the Palo Alto cobalt-60.

Robertson rejected both offers. He subsequently asked Isomedix and RSI to extend new bids. Having learned that they had been the only bidders, Isomedix and RSI then notified Robertson that they had formed a joint venture to purchase and remove both supplies of cobalt-60 for $ 350,000. After Robertson rejected this bid, Isomedix and RSI increased their joint bid by $ 14,000.

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28 F.3d 965 *; 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 22860 **; 1994-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) P70,709; 29 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 572; 31 Collier Bankr. Cas. 2d (MB) 816; 25 Bankr. Ct. Dec. 1381; 94 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4872; 94 Daily Journal DAR 8951

In re, INTL NUTRONICS, INC., Debtor. JEROME ROBERTSON, Trustee; Chapter 7 Trustee of International Nutronics, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ISOMEDIX, INC., a Delaware corporation; RADIATION STERILIZERS, INC., a California corporation individually and as joint venturers, Defendants-Appellees.

Subsequent History:  [**1]  Certiorari Denied November 28, 1994, Reported at: 1994 U.S. LEXIS 8364.

Prior History: Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. CV-90-02855-VRW. Vaughn R. Walker, District Judge, Presiding.

This Opinion Substituted on Grant of Rehearing for Withdrawn Opinion of August 10, 1993, Previously Reported at: 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 20300.


confirming, bankruptcy court, antitrust claim, bid, sale order, district court, res judicata, preclusive, non-core, res judicata effect, doctrine of res judicata, same cause of action, sale price, infringement, antitrust, collusion, orders

Bankruptcy Law, Administrative Powers, Estate Property Lease, Sale & Use, Collusive Bidding, Prepetition Transfers, Preferential Transfers, General Overview, Voidable Transfers, Civil Procedure, Judgments, Preclusion of Judgments, Res Judicata, Relief From Judgments, Fraud, Misconduct & Misrepresentation, Estate, Gift & Trust Law, Trustees, Duties & Powers, Extraordinary Circumstances, Independent Actions, Procedural Matters, Jurisdiction, Core Proceedings, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Examiners, Officers & Trustees, Duties & Functions, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, De Novo Standard of Review, Governments, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate, Noncore Proceedings, Appeals, De Novo Review, Estoppel, Judicial Estoppel, Criminal Law & Procedure, Substantial Evidence