Articles Posted in Bankruptcy

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In 2014, Lane sold her residence to the Deans. They subsequently discovered mold and sued her. The state court submitted the dispute to binding arbitration. The arbitrator awarded the Deans $126,895.57. A Kentucky court entered judgment on the award. The Deans filed their judgment lien against Lane’s current residence in May 2017. Lane filed a voluntary chapter 13 petition in July, proposing to avoid the Deans’ judgment lien as impairing her exemption rights. The Deans filed an Objection, asserting that the judgment lien was not avoidable under 11 U.S.C. 522(f) and that, under section 1322(b), Lane was not entitled to “modify” their rights as holders of a claim secured by her residence. The Bankruptcy Court overruled the Objection and confirmed the Debtor’s Plan. The Deans did not appeal. In November, the Deans, as pro se creditors, filed a dismissal motion, which the court denied. The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel dismissed an appeal. The order denying the Deans’ motion to dismiss is not a final order and the record presents no grounds for granting leave to appeal under well-settled Sixth Circuit case law, even treating the pro se notice of appeal as a motion for leave to appeal under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 8004(d). View "In re: Lane" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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Ritzen Group contracted to buy a piece of property from Jackson Masonry. The sale never went through. Ritzen claimed Jackson breached by providing error-ridden documentation on the eve of the closing deadline, while Jackson claimed Ritzen breached by failing to secure funding by that deadline. After the deal failed, Ritzen sued Jackson for breach of contract in Tennessee state court. The case progressed for nearly a year-and-a-half until Jackson filed for bankruptcy. As a result of the bankruptcy, the litigation was automatically stayed. Ritzen moved to lift the stay, which the bankruptcy court denied. Ritzen did not appeal, instead, brought a claim against the bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy court found that Ritzen, not Jackson, breached the contract. Ritzen subsequently filed two appeals to the district court. The first targeted the bankruptcy court’s order denying relief from the automatic stay. The second targeted the breach-of-contract determination. The district court found that the first appeal was untimely and rejected the second on the merits. Ritzen appealed again. Finding no reversible error in the district or bankruptcy courts' judgments, the Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Ritzen Group, Inc. v. Jackson Masonry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy, Contracts

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Seven Counties, a nonprofit provider of mental health services, attempted to file for Bankruptcy Code Chapter 11 reorganization. For decades, Seven Counties has participated in Kentucky’s public pension plan (KERS). Because the rate set for employer contributions has drastically increased in recent years, Seven Counties sought to reject its relationship with KERS in bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court and the district court both held that Seven Counties is eligible to file under Chapter 11 and that the relationship between Seven Counties and KERS is based on an executory contract that can be rejected. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. Seven Counties is only eligible to be a Chapter 11 debtor if it is a “person” under 11 U.S.C. 109(a); a “governmental unit” is generally excluded from the category of “person.” Because the Commonwealth does not exercise the necessary forms of control over Seven Counties for it to be considered an instrumentality of the Commonwealth, Seven Counties is eligible to file. Seven Counties characterized its relationship with KERS as contractual, such that, to the extent it is executory, it may be rejected in bankruptcy, 11 U.S.C. 365. KERS argued the relationship is purely statutory, similar to an assessment, such that it cannot be rejected. The Sixth Circuit certified the question of the nature of the relationship to the Kentucky Supreme Court. View "Kentucky Employees. Retirement System v. Seven Counties.Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Isaacs took out a home-equity loan, secured by a mortgage on their home. GMAC did not immediately record the mortgage. While the mortgage remained unrecorded, the Isaacs filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. GMAC recorded the mortgage after the automatic bankruptcy stay was in effect, without obtaining an order modifying or lifting the stay. The mortgage was listed as a secured claim. In 2004, the bankruptcy court entered a discharge order; the case closed. A decade later, the mortgage's new owner (DBI’s predecessor) obtained a Kentucky state court foreclosure order. Before the sale, Linda Isaacs filed a voluntary Chapter 13 petition, with an adversary complaint seeking to avoid the mortgage through the “strong-arm” power (11 U.S.C. 544(a)), which permits the trustee to “avoid transfers of property that would be avoidable by certain hypothetical parties,” arguing that it was never properly perfected and would lose under state priority law to the hypothetical parties. Isaacs alternatively argued that the lien had never attached because it contained conflicting language: one clause indicated that the lien attached once the Isaacs signed the mortgage another section stated the lien would attach upon recording. DBI contended that the bankruptcy court lacked jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because Isaacs was effectively asking it to sit as an appellate court over the state court’s foreclosure judgment. The bankruptcy court granted Isaacs summary judgment. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel reversed, holding that the bankruptcy court lacked jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The Sixth Circuit agreed but remanded. The primary claim, seeking avoidance under the strong-arm provision, was independent of the validity of the state-court judgment. View "Isaacs v. DBI-ASG Coinvestor Fund, III, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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Debtor filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, seeking the discharge of his student loan debt as an “undue hardship,” 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8). Debtor graduated with an architectural drafting certification in 2008 and, since then, the loan has been in forbearance, deferment or an income-driven repayment plan. The U.S. Department of Education intervened as a Party-Defendant and sought dismissal or summary judgment. Debtor filed an objection, not refuting the facts alleged in the motion, but arguing undue delay. The bankruptcy court allowed Debtor to amend his complaint, which did not state sufficient facts to meet the second prong of the Brunner test: “that additional circumstances exist indicating that this state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period of the student loans.” Debtor filed an amended complaint with exhibits showing proof of the Debtor’s status as a parolee, but did not otherwise correct the deficiencies. The court dismissed, finding that Debtor “only [made] conclusory statements about his inability to pay, without offering facts that may support these conclusions” and that status as a parolee, alone, was not “beyond the debtor’s control” as required under the third prong of the Brunner test. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed, concluding that Debtor did not plead sufficient facts to support a discharge of his student loan debt notwithstanding the exception to discharge that would otherwise apply. View "In re Chenault" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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Trustee and Creditor filed an adversary complaint against Debtors and NonDebtor Defendants, including BIT, seeking a declaration that Debtors were not entitled to a discharge, and to recover assets from the Non-Debtors. Creditor and Trustee later entered into an agreement; Creditor purchased the bankruptcy estate’s claims, except Trustee’s objection to discharge, for $100,000 and a reduction to Creditor’s proof of claim. The court authorized the sale and dismissed the purchased claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Trustee no longer owned and lacked standing to assert them but did not dismiss the 2009 Complaint. Creditor then filed the dismissed claims in the Western District of Tennessee, alleging that the BIT was an alter ego of Debtors, such that its assets should be made available to satisfy claims. The district court dismissed the claims because Tennessee law does not recognize reverse-veil-piercing outside of parent-subsidiary corporate relationships. In 2017, Creditor filed a new bankruptcy court complaint, invoking derivative standing and seeking a declaration that the BIT is a self-settled trust so that its assets are not excluded from bankruptcy estate by 11 U.S.C. 541(c)(2). The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed dismissal. The bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in interpreting the Sale Order to include the claims asserted in the 2017 Complaint or in concluding that Creditor could not pursue the claims asserted in the 2017 Complaint derivatively on Trustee’s behalf. View "In re Blasingame" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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Giese claimed that HNRC paid royalties derived from coal mining into an escrow account. After buying the property on which the mining occurred, Giese sued, asserting a right to the escrowed royalties. Lexington Coal disputed Giese’s claim, arguing it purchased all cash and accounts of HNRC and HNRC’s parent company during a bankruptcy case involving those entities. Lexington had been a defendant in an interpleader action before the Bankruptcy Court to determine the rightful owner of the funds at issue. Giese’s state court action was removed to the Bankruptcy Court, which declined to abstain from adjudicating two counts of Giese’s Kentucky state court complaint and dismissed his complaint. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed. Giese’s claims were inextricably intertwined with the bankruptcy case and would not exist but for the bankruptcy, so the Bankruptcy Court was right to adjudicate them. Sending two claims (breach of contract and royalty claims) to a court that cannot, under any circumstance, adjudicate the other related claims, would pose a great risk to important policy concerns. Upholding the dismissal, the court stated that an order confirming a plan of reorganization constitutes a final judgment in a bankruptcy proceeding, and res judicata bars relitigation of any issues that could have been raised during the confirmation proceeding. View "In re HNRC Dissolution Co." on Justia Law

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Two individuals obtained unemployment benefits from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency to which they were not entitled because they were being paid wages. Each was ordered to pay restitution and a penalty; each subsequently filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The debtors argued that the penalties assessed were dischargeable in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Each district court disagreed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding the penalties nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2). That section reflects a congressional decision that those who commit fraud are not to be given the same “fresh start” as “honest but unfortunate debtor[s].” A finding that the debt here arises from fraud perpetrated against the Agency makes section 523(a)(2) applicable, regardless of whether the debt could also fit under section 523(a)(7), which applies to government penalties. View "Kozlowski v. Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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Two individuals obtained unemployment benefits from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency to which they were not entitled because they were being paid wages. Each was ordered to pay restitution and a penalty; each subsequently filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The debtors argued that the penalties assessed were dischargeable in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Each district court disagreed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding the penalties nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2). That section reflects a congressional decision that those who commit fraud are not to be given the same “fresh start” as “honest but unfortunate debtor[s].” A finding that the debt here arises from fraud perpetrated against the Agency makes section 523(a)(2) applicable, regardless of whether the debt could also fit under section 523(a)(7), which applies to government penalties. View "Kozlowski v. Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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In 2013, Jackson filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy court lifted the automatic stay on Jackson’s residence. The bank foreclosed on Jackson’s residence in May 2014. Jackson’s right to redeem the property expired six months later. In October 2014, the Chapter 7 Trustee filed a no-asset report; in February 2015, Jackson obtained a discharge. Jackson submitted letters to the bankruptcy court in December 2016, stating that the account number for a creditor had changed; requesting “reconsideration of House being exempt in the bankruptcy case”; requesting a “sign[ed] court Order stating that the amended Scheduled have been listed, dismissed and entered”; and requesting reconsideration of an order denying her request to transfer the case. After a hearing, the bankruptcy court denied all of Jackson’s request and directed the Clerk to “prepare and enter a final decree discharging the trustee and closing the case promptly but not earlier than twenty-eight days after the entry” of that January 26, 2017 order. Jackson filed her Notice of Appeal 28 days later on February 23. On February 24, the Clerk docketed a “Text Order of Final Decree” which referenced the discharge and closed the case. The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, sua sponte, raised the issue and found that the appeal was filed late under 28 U.S.C. 158(c)(2), Supreme Court precedent indicates that the statutory time requirements are jurisdictional in nature. View "In re Jackson" on Justia Law