Justia Bankruptcy Opinion Summaries

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Creditor challenged the bankruptcy court's order confirming debtor's Chapter 13 plan. In this case, Creditor did not provide the panel with a transcript of the relevant bankruptcy proceedings, specifically the confirmation hearing. The panel concluded that, because the bankruptcy court stated her findings of fact and conclusions of law on the record and the panel has no transcript of the bankruptcy court's statements made during the portion of the hearing during which she did so, there was no basis upon which the panel could say that the bankruptcy court erred. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the bankruptcy court's decision. View "Situm v. Coppess" on Justia Law

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Avoca Plaintiffs filed suits against New Kerr-McGee, alleging toxic tort claims. The suits were stayed when the owners/operators of the Avoca Plant, Tronox debtors, filed for bankruptcy. In this appeal, Avoca challenged the district court's order enforcing a permanent anti‐suit injunction issued after the bankruptcy settlement. New Kerr‐McGee had moved in the district court for an order enforcing the Injunction and for sanctions, asserting that the Injunction forecloses claims that arise from liabilities derived from or through the Tronox debtors that are also generalized and common to all creditors. The district court concluded that the claims are barred by the Injunction and, without imposing sanctions or finding contempt, ordered the Avoca Plaintiffs to dismiss with prejudice their state‐court complaints. The court rejected the Avoca Plaintiffs' assertions of appellate jurisdiction, concluding that the district court's order is not "final" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 1291, because it neither found contempt nor imposed sanctions; the order is not a decision by the district court on review of a bankruptcy court order, as required by 28 U.S.C. 158(d); and the court lacked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1) because the district court properly construed (and neither modified nor continued) the Injunction. The court held that the Avoca Plaintiffs' personal injury claims based on conduct of the Tronox debtors, and asserted against New Kerr‐McGee on a variety of state‐law indirect‐liability theories, are generalized "derivative" claims that fall within the property of the bankruptcy estate. Accordingly, the court lifted the stay and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "In re Tronox Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Debtor after Debtor defaulted on a loan. Plaintiff secured a default judgment in the amount of $137,030.78. Without making payment on the judgment, Debtor later filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Plaintiff commenced an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court seeking an order declaring the debt non-dischargeable. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that the debt was within the purview of 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2)(B), which exempts from discharge certain debts. Debtor answered the complaint and then moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff then moved to amend her complaint to include an alternative claim that the debt was non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2)(A). The bankruptcy court granted Debtor’s motion to dismiss and denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the First Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint and refusal to allow Plaintiff to add a section 523(a)(2)(A) claim to her complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the section 523(a)(2)(B) claim was properly dismissed; and (2) an adequate basis existed for the bankruptcy court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion to amend. View "Privitera v. Curran" on Justia Law

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Movant-Appellee Nabors Drilling USA, L.P. filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. That filing triggered the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. 362(a)(1), which generally applied to protect a debtor after it has filed for bankruptcy protection. The question presented in this case was whether that stay applied to a lawsuit filed by appellant-plaintiff Jeremy Porter, who has asserted a claim under California’s Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”). Porter contended the exception established in 11 U.S.C. 362(b)(4) applied to exempt his PAGA claim from the automatic stay. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the exception does not apply to a claim brought by a private party under PAGA, and therefore granted Nabors’s motion to recognize the automatic stay. View "Porter v. Nabors Drilling USA, L.P." on Justia Law

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In this bankruptcy appeal, the issue presented for the Ninth Circuit’s review was one of first impression regarding some key provisions of 11 U.S.C. 1111(b) that apply to Chapter 11 proceedings for those who hold non-recourse liens on real property who are granted recourse against the bankruptcy estate upon the filing of the bankruptcy petition. Those protected are creditors who have “a claim secured by a lien on property of the estate.” The issue before the Court was whether the creditor continues to have a right of recourse after there has been a non-judicial foreclosure, so that the property is no longer part of the estate and the liens have been extinguished. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (“BAP said no and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. View "Mastan v. Salamon" on Justia Law

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In his 2010 Chapter 7 petition, the debtor listed a claim against Simms based on an injury while under Simms’ employ, but did not claim an exemption on Schedule C. In 2011, a complaint was filed against Simms; in 2012, a companion action was filed against BWC. The debtor filed amended schedules, valuing the Simms claim at $21,625, but claiming no exemption. The debtor never listed the BWC claim. In 2013, the certified that the estate had been fully administered except for the Simms claim, stating: The ... settlement shall remain property of the bankruptcy estate upon the entry of a final decree; if money becomes available ... the case will be re-opened. The bankruptcy court closed the case; the order contained no reservations regarding the claim. In 2015, the trustee was notified of a settlement offer and moved to reopen the case. The debtor argued that the trustee had abandoned any interest in the personal injury litigation and that the settlement encompassed the claim against BWC in which the trustee had no interest. The court approved a settlement of $180,000. At a hearing, without evidence or testimony, the bankruptcy court found that the claims were not abandoned. The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel reversed in part. The court made no findings to support approval of the settlement over the debtor’s objections. Because no court order preserved the personal injury claim as an asset, the bankruptcy court erred by holding that the trustee did not abandon that claim under 11 U.S.C. 554(c); the unscheduled BWC claim was not abandoned. View "In re: Wayne Wright" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, unsuccessful bidders in a bankruptcy proceeding, appealed the district court's dismissal of their suit alleging claims for breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference, and common law fraud against the law firm K&L Gates, LLP and two of its former partners. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants used their prior representation of plaintiffs to undermine plaintiffs' attempt to acquire assets in a bankruptcy sale.  The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss based on res judicata. The court agreed with plaintiffs that they could not have brought their claims during the bankruptcy proceedings, and that this present action would not disturb the orders of the bankruptcy court. The court explained that the circumstances in this case did not demand that plaintiffs raise their claim in the bankruptcy proceeding, and noted that the relevant issues were not litigated through an adversary proceeding or otherwise. Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated, remanding for further proceedings. View "Brown Media Corp. v. K&L Gates, LLP" on Justia Law

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The Lansaws operated a daycare in space leased from Zokaites. After they entered into a new lease with a different landlord, but before they moved, Zokaites served them with a Notice for Distraint, claiming a lien against personal property for unpaid rent. The following day, the Lansaws filed for bankruptcy, triggering the automatic stay, 11 U.S.C. 362(a). Zokaites’s attorney was notified of the filing on August 17, 2006. On August 21, Zokaites and his attorney entered the daycare during business hours, by following a parent, and photographed the Lansaws’ personal property. On August 27, Zokaites entered after business hours, using his key, then padlocked the doors, leaving a note stating that Zokaites would not unchain the doors unless Mrs. Lansaw’s mother agreed that she had not been assaulted by Zokaites, the Lansaws reaffirmed their lease with Zokaites, and the Lansaws ceased removing property from the daycare. The Lansaws removed the chains and slept in the building. Zokaites locked the door from the outside and left with the Lansaws’ keys. The Lansaws called the police. Meanwhile, Zokaites attorney communicated by phone and letter with the new landlord, stating that, if the new lease was not terminated, Zokaites would sue the new landlord. In an adversary proceeding, the Bankruptcy Court awarded the Lansaws attorney fees ($2,600), emotional-distress damages ($7,500) and punitive damages ($40,000) under 11 U.S.C. 362(k)(1). The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. Section 362(k)(1) authorizes the award of emotional-distress damages; the Lansaws presented sufficient evidence to support the award. View "In re: Lansaw" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants David and Lee Ann Lankford unwittingly invested in a Ponzi scheme operated by Vaughan Company Realtors (VCR), wherein investors paid money to VCR in return for interest-bearing promissory notes. After the Ponzi scheme collapsed, VCR filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Unlike many others, the Lankfords actually profited from their investment. So the court-appointed trustee of VCR’s bankruptcy estate, Judith Wagner, brought an adversary proceeding against them in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Mexico. Through this and related “clawback” proceedings, the trustee sought to avoid, or undo, pre-bankruptcy fraudulent transfers and thus recoup fictitious profits from investors with net gains for the benefit of all of VCR’s creditors. The Lankfords filed this lawsuit against the bankruptcy trustee and her counsel without first applying for and receiving permission under "Barton v. Barbour," (104 U.S. 126 (1881)), and its progeny (the “Barton doctrine”). The district court concluded that "Barton" barred the suit and dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Lankford v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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The Trustee filed suit against Officers of NRMC alleging that the Officers breached their fiduciary duty of care, loyalty, and good faith. The district court has not been able to identify clear controlling precedents from the Supreme Court of Mississippi that would resolve this case. Therefore, the court certified the following questions of law to the Supreme Court of Mississippi regarding the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA), Miss. Code Ann. 11-46-1, et seq. 1) Does the MTCA furnish the exclusive remedy for a bankruptcy trustee standing in the shoes of a public hospital corporation against the employees or directors of that public corporation? 2) If the answer to the foregoing question is affirmative, does the MTCA permit the trustee to pursue any of the claims identified in his complaint against the officers and directors of NRMC in their personal capacity? View "Lefoldt, Jr. v. Rentfro" on Justia Law