Articles Posted in Bankruptcy

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A chapter 7 trustee sought a declaration that a refinanced mortgage only encumbered the interest of the person specifically defined within the body of the mortgage as a “Borrower/Mortgagor.” The mortgage instrument listed the co-debtor's wife as a “Borrower” in the signature block but the mortgage did not specifically name her as a “Borrower” within the text of document other than in the signature block. The bankruptcy court regarded the mortgage as ambiguous under these circumstances, considered extrinsic evidence, and concluded that the property was fully encumbered by the mortgage. Pending appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court answered certified questions, stating that the failure to identify a signatory by name within the body of the mortgage instrument did not render the agreement unenforceable against the signatory’s in rem rights as a matter of law and that when a mortgage is properly signed, initialed and acknowledged by a signatory who is not named within the document itself, the mortgage is not invalid as a matter of law. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed, concluding that the mortgage encumbered the rights of both husband and wife. View "In re Perry" on Justia Law

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Three years before filing her bankruptcy petition, Lane sold her residence to the Deans. They subsequently discovered mold in the basement and filed a civil complaint against her. The state court submitted the dispute to binding arbitration. The arbitrator awarded the Deans $126,895.57. A Kentucky trial 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 on July 14. The Bankruptcy Court confirmed Lane’s Plan over the Deans’ objection. The Deans did not appeal the confirmation order but filed adversary proceedings and appeals to avoid its effect. The Bankruptcy Court sanctioned the Deans, awarding Lane attorney fees for their contemptuous behavior. The Deans filed objections to the Lane’s counsel’s Interim Fee Application. The Bankruptcy Court conducted a hearing and ultimately allowed the interim fees. The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel dismissed the Deans’ appeal, finding that the interim orders are not final orders, 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

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The Debtors filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in 2008. Creditor CJV was granted derivative standing on behalf of the bankruptcy estate and sought a declaratory judgment that personal property located at the Debtors' home was property of the bankruptcy estate. The Debtors asserted that the personal property is held in trust or belongs to other people, such as their children and that the complaint was barred by the statute of limitations. After discovery was completed, the Trustee moved to abandon the action, arguing that, even if the personal property was property of the bankruptcy estate, it was only worth approximately $200,000, as opposed to more than one million dollars as CJV had asserted and that the IRS had a tax lien in far excess of its value, so that the litigation could result in a loss to the estate. CJV asserted that the cause of action was no longer property of the bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy court granted the motion for abandonment and dismissed the adversary proceeding. The Bankruptcy Appellate affirmed. The action remained property of the estate; Section 554(a) of the Bankruptcy Code allows a trustee, after notice and a hearing, to abandon property that is of inconsequential value and benefit to the estate. The Trustee’s determination was based on sound business judgment and within his discretion. View "In re Blasingame" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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The Debtors filed their bankruptcy petition in 2008. Grusin provided them legal advice before the filing and at the beginning of the bankruptcy case. Fullen filed the petition and represented them in the chapter 7 case. In 2011, the bankruptcy court granted the Trustee summary judgment in an adversary proceeding seeking to deny the Debtors’ discharge and disqualified both lawyers from further representation of the Debtors in that case. The Debtors hired new counsel, who obtained relief from the summary judgment order. Following a trial, in 2015, the bankruptcy court again denied the Debtors’ discharge. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed. In 2012, the bankruptcy court granted CJV derivative standing to pursue a malpractice action on behalf of the estate against Grusin and Fullen. Malpractice complaints were filed in the bankruptcy court and in Tennessee state court. In 2014, CJV filed another adversary proceeding, seeking declaratory relief that the malpractice claims constituted property of Debtors’ estate. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed the bankruptcy court in holding that the malpractice action for denial of debtors’ discharges based on errors and omissions contained in a bankruptcy petition, as well as pre and post-petition legal advice, was not property of the debtors’ bankruptcy estate. There was no pre-petition injury; the Debtors were injured by that negligence when their discharges in bankruptcy were denied. View "In re Blasingame" on Justia Law

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Over a decade ago, the Blasingames filed for bankruptcy, seeking to discharge $7.7 million in debt, claiming they made $900 per month and owned less than $6,000 worth of assets. Their creditor, Church,allegedly discovered that the Blasingames made over $300,000 per year and had at least $18 million in assets, including “a 28-acre, gated residence compound,” 1,700 acres of “prime farmland,” and hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial assets that belonged to trusts and corporations under the Blasingames’ control. The Blasingames’ bankruptcy trustee initially tried to recover the assets by authorizing Church to sue derivatively on its behalf in bankruptcy court but later decided to sell the cause of action to Church. Since the sold cause of action could no longer affect the bankruptcy estate's value, the bankruptcy court dismissed. Church filed a new lawsuit against the Blasingames and their trusts, alleging “alter-ego.” The district court dismissed, concluding that Tennessee would not recognize that theory outside of the corporate context. Church filed another adversary proceeding on behalf of the trustee, against the Blasingame Family Investment Trust, which was self-settled; the settlors, trustees, and beneficiaries were all the same. The bankruptcy court concluded that the was just a subset of the cause of action that was sold and dismissed. Church filed another adversary proceeding on behalf of the trustee, targeting the Blasingame Family Residence Trust, which granted the Blasingames a life estate. The bankruptcy court dismissed, finding that the Blasingames’ interest was equitable, not legal, and beyond their creditor’s reach. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, adopting the bankruptcy court reasoning. View "In re Earl Blasingame" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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Trucking, owned by Bourdow, his wife, and their sons, sold and transported dirt, stone, and sand throughout lower Michigan and engaged in construction site preparation and excavation. Trucking employed other members of the Bourdow family. Trucking executed collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), under which it made fringe benefit payments to the Union’s pension fund (Fund). Experiencing financial difficulties, Trucking terminated its CBA. In 2012, the Fund informed Trucking that it had incurred withdrawal liability ($1,163,279) under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C 1381(a). Trucking missed its first withdrawal liability payment. The Fund filed suit, which was stayed when Trucking filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Fund filed a proof of claim. Trucking did not object; the claim was allowed, 11 U.S.C. 502(a). The Fund received $52,034. Contracting was incorporated the day after Trucking missed its first withdrawal payment; it bid on its first project two days before Trucking's bankruptcy filing. Contracting engages in construction site preparation and excavation in lower Michigan. Contracting is owned by the Bourdow sons; it employs other family members and retains the services of other professionals formerly retained by Trucking. The Fund sought to recover the outstanding withdrawal liability, alleging that Contracting was created to avoid withdrawal liability, and is responsible for that liability under 29 U.S.C 1392(c), and that Contracting is the alter ego of Trucking. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Fund, applying the National Labor Relations Act’s alter-ego test and citing the factors of business purpose, operations, customers, supervision, ownership, and intent to evade labor obligations. View "Trustees of Operating Engineers Local 324 v. Bourdow Contracting, Inc." on Justia Law

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Oakes filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in 2013, including Franklin, Ohio real property, valued at $160,000. PNC holds a mortgage lien on the property, which was filed in 2003. That mortgage lien was not executed in accordance with the Ohio law; Oakes’ signatures were not acknowledged before a notary public. In 2013, Ohio Rev. Code 1301.401(C) was enacted, providing that “Any person contesting the validity or effectiveness of any transaction referred to in a public record is considered to have discovered that public record and any transaction referred to in the record as of the time that the record was first filed with the secretary of state or tendered to a county recorder for recording.” The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee sought to avoid the PNC mortgage because it was not properly recorded. In the meantime, the Ohio Supreme Court held that O.R.C. 1301.401 applied to all recorded mortgages and acts to provide constructive notice of a recorded mortgage, even if that mortgage was deficiently executed. The bankruptcy court denied PNC’s motion for judgment, finding that the statutory constructive notice had no effect on a trustee’s avoidance powers as a judicial lien creditor. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel and Sixth Circuit affirmed. A bankruptcy trustee may avoid a deficiently executed mortgage when acting as a judicial lien creditor. View "Harker v. PNC Mortgage Co." on Justia Law

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After a settlement in his divorce proceeding, Debtor filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. Debtor was subsequently confined to jail for failure to pay the court-approved settlement. Debtor filed an adversary complaint seeking damages under 11 U.S.C. 362(k) for violations of the automatic stay by his former wife, Skurko, and her attorney, Gentile, by allowing the post-petition sentencing portion of a pre-petition contempt proceeding to continue despite knowing that the automatic stay was in effect. The bankruptcy court found no violation because the two did not take affirmative action post-petition to try to collect the debt, and there was no affirmative action they could take to prevent the domestic relations judge from jailing Debtor for nonpayment because the contempt motion was already ruled upon. The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel reversed. Upon the filing of Debtor’s bankruptcy, it was incumbent upon Gentile and Skurko to seek relief from the stay or to obtain a bankruptcy court determination that the stay did not apply. A creditor cannot sit idly by, appear at a collection proceeding, and allow the debtor to be jailed because he did not pay the judgment creditor’s dischargeable debt. The burden was on the creditor and her attorney to stop the proceeding once the bankruptcy was filed. View "In re Lawrence Wohleber, Jr." on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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In 2000, the Tribe had agreed to pay Monroe $265 million for Monroe’s 50% ownership interest in the Casino, giving the Tribe a 100% ownership interest. In 2002, the Tribe agreed to another $200 million debt in exchange for a continued gaming license from the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB). In 2005, the Tribe created a new entity (Holdings), which became the Casino’s owner; pre-existing entities owned by the Tribe became Holdings' owners to allow the Tribe to refinance and raise capital to meet its financial obligations. The restructuring was approved by the MGCB, conditioned on the Tribe’s adherence to strict financial covenants. In 2005, Holdings transferred approximately $177 million to various entities. At least $145.5 million went to the original owners of Monroe. At least $6 million went to the Tribe. For three years, the Tribe unsuccessfully attempted to raise additional capital to meet its financial obligations. In 2008, the related corporate entities) filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Trustee alleged that the 2005 transfers were fraudulent and sought recovery under 11 U.S.C. 544, 550. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s dismissal of the complaint on the basis of tribal sovereign immunity. The court rejected arguments that Congress intended to abrogate the sovereign immunity of Indian tribes in 11 U.S.C. 106, 101(27). View "Buchwald Capital Advisors LLC v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe" on Justia Law

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Fulson owned Nicole Gas, which entered bankruptcy proceedings, and became dissatisfied with the Trustee’s handling of claims that Nicole Gas held against its competitors. With the help of attorneys Sanders and Lowe, Fulson sought relief in state court under the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act (Ohio civil RICO) against the competitors that allegedly put his business into bankruptcy. The Trustee alleged that he had appropriated claims and filed a claim, alleging that Fulson, Sanders, and Lowe violated the automatic stay. The Bankruptcy Court agreed, held the three in contempt, and entered a judgment for roughly $91,000. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The court explored the principles of the derivative suit in corporate law, the function of the automatic stay in bankruptcy, and the extent and construction of a specific state’s RICO laws to conclude that the Ohio RICO statute does not give the sole shareholder of a bankrupt corporation standing to circumvent the automatic stay and individually sue a competitor. Fulson and his attorneys should have sought either the trustee’s cooperation or relief from the automatic stay in order to file the complaint. View "In re Nicole Gas Production, Ltd." on Justia Law