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At issue in this bankruptcy case was whether a defaulting subcontractor who has no contractual right to compensation is nonetheless entitled to an equitable recovery if the general contractor has benefited at the subcontractor’s expense. Insite, a bankrupt subcontractor, filed an adversary proceeding against Walsh, a general contractor, in bankruptcy court claiming that Walsh improperly withheld payments belonging to its bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy court found the doctrine announced in Pearlman v. Reliance Insurance Co., 371 U.S. 132, 141-42 (1962), prevented Insite from gaining a property interest in the funds withheld by Walsh. The district court affirmed. The First Circuit vacated the judgment below and remanded, holding (1) the Pearlman doctrine did not address the primary issue in this case; and (2) while Insite was not due funds under its contract with Walsh, the bankruptcy and district courts must consider whether Walsh was benefited by Insite’s post-default performance in such a way that Insite had an equitable claim under Puerto Rico law. View "Insite Corp. Inc. v. Walsh Construction Co. Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel vacated the bankruptcy court's decision concerning injunctive and declaratory relief, holding that the bankruptcy court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the claim at issue. In this case, the bankruptcy court held that a debt to AY was not dischargeable due to debtor's fraud and defalcation while he was a director at AY. The panel explained that the outcome of AY's claim for injunctive and declaratory relief could have no effect on debtor or the bankruptcy estate; the relief for the contract claim only affected AY; and the claim involved distributions from two spendthrift trusts, which were not property of the estate. Therefore, the contract claims for injunctive and declaratory relief were neither core proceedings nor non-core related to proceedings. View "AY McDonald Industries Inc. v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Bankruptcy Court's order dismissing a fraudulent conveyance claim by the trustee of the liquidating trust of Teltronics against Harris and RPX. The court held that the Bankruptcy Court made no material error in ruling on the admissibility of evidence, and there was no error in the conclusion that the trustee failed to prove that Teltronics was insolvent at the time of the transfer. In this case, having accepted that the value of the assets listed on the balance sheet, as presented by an expert who testified for the trustee, was incomplete without the inclusion of the value of the three maintenance contracts, the burden was on the trustee to prove that the value of those contracts was so small as to leave the expert's opinion as to insolvency unaffected. The trustee offered no such evidence. Therefore, the court did not reach the lower courts' decisions and dismissed the cross-appeals as moot. View "O'Halloran v. Harris Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's summary judgment denying discharge of two individual Chapter 11 debtors' debt arising from a state-court judgment for fraud and misrepresentation. The panel held that the Chapter 11 plan provided for the liquidation of all or substantially all of the property of the bankruptcy estate under 11 U.S.C. 1141(d)(3)(A); debtors did not engage in business after consummation of the Chapter 11 plan, because they were simply employees in businesses owned or operated by others; and, assuming that section 1141(d)(3) does not require that the debtor engage in a pre-petition business, the statute was not satisfied by mere employment in someone else's business after consummation of a Chapter 11 plan. View "Hyun J. Um v. Spokane Rock I, LLC" on Justia Law

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After initiating Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, Debtors entered into an Agreement: NextEra would acquire Debtors’ 80% interest in Oncor, the largest electricity transmission and distribution system in Texas, for approximately $9.5 billion. The Agreement obligated Debtors to pay NextEra $275 million if NextEra did not ultimately acquire Debtors’ interest in Oncor and Debtors either sold to someone else or otherwise emerged from bankruptcy, with several exceptions. If the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) did not approve the merger, payment would not be triggered if the Agreement was “terminated . . . by [NextEra] . . . and the receipt of PUCT Approval (without the imposition of a Burdensome Condition) [wa]s the only condition . . . not satisfied or waived in accordance with this Agreement.” About a year after approving the Agreement, and after PUCT expressed concern about the condition, the bankruptcy court granted a motion for reconsideration and disallowed the Termination Fee in the event that the PUCT declines to approve the transaction and, as a result, the agreement is terminated, regardless of whether the Debtors or NextEra subsequently terminates the agreement. Were it not for that order, NextEra would be entitled to the $275 million. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting NextEra’s arguments that the motion was untimely and, alternatively, that the motion should have been denied on the merits because the termination fee provision, as originally drafted, was an allowable administrative expense under 11 U.S.C. 503(b). View "In re: Energy Future Holdings" on Justia Law

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After debtor filed for bankruptcy, she sought to exempt a property tax refund of $1,500, asserting that she could exempt the refund as government assistance based on need under Minnesota law. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy appellate panel's decision sustaining the trustee's objection to the amended exemption. The court held that the property tax refund did not fit within the Minnesota Legislature's definition of government assistance based on need and was therefore not exempt. View "Hanson v. Seaver" on Justia Law

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A bankruptcy court has no authority under federal law to deny an exemption on a ground not specified in the bankruptcy code. Therefore, the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed the bankruptcy court's decision overruling the trustee's object to debtor's second amended claim of exemptions. View "Rucker v. Belew" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy appellate panel's (BAP) decision affirming the bankruptcy court's dismissal of Korley Sears and Robert Sears' claims in a protracted family dispute. The court held that this case, at a minimum, was related to a case under Title 11 and the bankruptcy court had subject matter jurisdiction on this basis. The court also held that plaintiffs impliedly consented to the bankruptcy court's entry of the dismissal order; and the BAP correctly determined that the shareholder standing rule barred plaintiffs' claims because they alleged only injuries that were derivative of debtor AFY. View "Sears v. Sears" on Justia Law

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Younge, an African-American man, was fired by WPHL, a Tribune television station. Younge claims WPHL subjected him to a hostile work environment because it scheduled him to train under a white co-worker who used racial epithets and that he was wrongfully terminated because of his race and/or color. Younge filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Commission on Human Relations but chose to litigate in Bankruptcy Court after Tribune filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. That court disallowed his claims. In the district court, Younge challenged, for the first time, the Bankruptcy Court’s jurisdiction. The district court held he impliedly consented to jurisdiction and that the court correctly disallowed his claims. The Third Circuit affirmed. Younge voluntarily submitted to the Bankruptcy Court's jurisdiction: he filed a proof of claim, a response to Tribune’s objection, and a supplemental response, and appeared at a hearing. The Bankruptcy Court’s proceedings did not abridge his right to procedural due process, his right to a jury trial, or his right to counsel. The court rejected Younge’s Commerce Clause argument that the Bankruptcy Court’s local-counsel requirement inures to the disadvantage of out-of-state litigants. The lower courts correctly decided Younge’s hostile work environment claim. Younge did not prove respondeat superior liability. The record did not touch on WPHL’s knowledge of racial animus—a key facet of Younge’s claim-- and WPHL offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for his termination. Younge failed to demonstrate pretext. View "Tribune Media Co. v. Younge" on Justia Law

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Sovereign immunity does not preclude an award of emotional distress damages against the United States for willful violation of an automatic stay. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment reversing the bankruptcy court's award of damages to debtors for the IRS's violation of the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay. The panel held that Congress waived sovereign immunity for a "money recovery" under certain bankruptcy provisions, including 11 U.S.C. 362(k), which allows an individual to recover "actual damages" for a willful violation of the automatic stay. The panel remanded with instructions to consider the government's challenges on the merits. View "Hunsaker v. United States" on Justia Law