Justia Bankruptcy Opinion Summaries

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In 2015, Ralph Isom filed for bankruptcy. Ultimately, a bankruptcy trustee for the estate settled with Isom’s primary creditor, Farms, LLC (“Farms”). As part of the settlement, the bankruptcy trustee conveyed a ten-acre parcel from the bankruptcy estate to Farms. Isom was living on the ten-acre parcel at the time. When Isom refused to vacate the ten-acre parcel, Farms initiated this forcible detainer action. The magistrate court entered judgment for Farms and ordered Isom to vacate the ten-acre parcel. Isom appealed to the district court, but also vacated the property as the magistrate court had ordered. Because Isom had vacated, and thus no longer occupied or owned the ten-acre parcel, the district court held that Isom’s appeal was moot. Further, the district court rejected the merits of Isom’s appeal. Isom appealed the district court’s decision on the merits, but failed to appeal the district court’s holding that his appeal was moot. The Idaho Supreme Court found that because Isom failed to raise, let alone argue against, the district court’s decision as it related to mootness, the issue was considered waived."Isom’s waiver is dispositive. As a result, we will not reach the merits of his appeal as it relates to the sufficiency of proof regarding the forcible detainer action." Judgment was thus affirmed. View "Farms, LLC v. Isom" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated and reversed the bankruptcy court's order imposing punitive sanctions in three chapter 13 cases. In this case, PHH sent monthly mortgage statements listing fees totaling $716 that had not been properly disclosed in the three cases. PHH was sanctioned $75,000 for violation of Bankruptcy Rule of Procedure 3002.1 and $225,000 for violation of bankruptcy court orders.The court agreed with PHH that Rule 3002.1 does not authorize punitive monetary sanctions, and that PHH did not violate the court orders as a matter of law. The court explained that a broad authorization of punitive sanctions is a poor fit with Rule 3002.1's tailored enforcement mechanism and limited purpose. Therefore, punitive sanctions do not fall within the "appropriate relief" authorized by Rule 3002.1. View "In re: Gravel" on Justia Law

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While Appvion was in financial distress, 2012-2016, the defendants allegedly fraudulently inflated stock valuations to enrich the directors and officers, whose pay was tied to the valuations of its ERISA-covered Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). They allegedly carried out this scheme with knowing aid from the ESOP trustee, Argent, and its independent appraiser, Stout. Appvion directors allegedly provided unlawful dividends to its parent company by forgiving intercompany notes. Appvion filed for bankruptcy protection. Appvion’s bankruptcy creditors were given authority to pursue certain corporation-law claims on behalf of Appvion to recover losses from the defendants’ alleged wrongs against the corporation; they brought state law claims against the directors and officers for breaching their corporate fiduciary duties; alleged that Argent and Stout aided and abetted those breaches, and asserted state-law unlawful dividend claims. The defendants argued that their roles in Appvion’s ESOP valuations were governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which preempted state corporation-law liability and that, despite their dual roles as corporate and ERISA fiduciaries, they acted exclusively under ERISA when carrying out ESOP activities, 29 U.S.C. 1002(21)(A). The district court agreed and dismissed.The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. ERISA does not preempt the claims against directors and officers. ERISA expressly contemplates parallel corporate liability against those who serve dual roles as both corporate and ERISA fiduciaries. ERISA preempts the claims against Argent and Stout. Corporation-law aiding and abetting liability against these defendants would interfere with the cornerstone of ERISA’s fiduciary duties—Section 404's exclusive benefit rule. View "Halperin v. Richards" on Justia Law

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The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel dismissed debtor's appeal as moot where he challenged the bankruptcy court's order denying his motion for relief from a previous order denying his request for a waiver of the Bankruptcy Code's credit counseling requirement. The court concluded that the bankruptcy case was subsequently dismissed, and thus a reversal of the waiver denial order would be of no benefit to debtor. View "Lincoln v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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Algozine employed members of the Union and, pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, was required to submit contributions to three employee benefit funds on behalf of employees who performed covered work: the Welfare Fund; the Pension Fund; and the Annuity Fund. All are multi-employer benefit funds under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. 1002. Algozine fell behind on its contributions and filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition.The Funds filed separate proofs of claims under 11 U.S.C. 507(a)(5) for unpaid contributions. Section 507(a) affords priority status up to a specified point to certain types of unsecured claims, including claims for unpaid contributions to an employee benefit plan. The Welfare Fund sought $21,334.30, the Pension Fund sought $18,453.40, and the Annuity Fund sought $11,607.16. Algozine argued that the total should be reduced to $5,556.34 because the Funds erred by applying the priority cap that appears in section 507(a)(5) to each individual Fund’s claims rather than the Funds’ aggregate claims. The bankruptcy court, district court, and the Seventh Circuit agreed with the Funds that section 507(a)(5) does not require assessing distinct benefit plans collectively. View "In re: Algozine Masonry Restoration, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose because debtor-appellant Margaret Kinney failed to make some of the required mortgage payments within her Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan’s five-year period. Shortly after the five-year period ended, however, she made the back payments and requested a discharge. The bankruptcy court denied the request and dismissed the case. The issue on appeal was whether the bankruptcy court could grant a discharge, and the answer turned on how the Tenth Circuit characterized Kinney’s late payments. She characterized them as a cure for her earlier default; HSBC Bank characterized them as an impermissible effort to modify the plan. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the bank and affirmed dismissal. View "Kinney v. HSBC Bank USA" on Justia Law

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The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed the bankruptcy court's decisions that debt owed by each debtor to Madison related to U.S. Bank in the amount of $1,676,162.20, plus interest, costs and any attorney's fees awarded in the matter are nondischargeable pursuant to Bankruptcy Code 523(a)(2)(A).The panel concluded that the bankruptcy court correctly analyzed first, under nonbankruptcy law the existence of a debt to Madison and second, under federal bankruptcy law the issue of dischargeability. In this case, the bankruptcy court appropriately found with respect to damages that debtors misrepresented and concealed material facts from Madison in order to further their conspiracy. View "Madison Resource Funding Corp. v. Marsh" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy appellate panel's decision affirming the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' action based on issue preclusion grounds. Looking to North Dakota preclusion law for the federal common law principles of issue preclusion applicable in this case, the court concluded that its decision in Finstad II that plaintiffs do not have any interest in the property was an issue actually litigated in a prior suit between the parties that is binding on plaintiffs in this lawsuit. View "Finstad v. Gord" on Justia Law

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The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel vacated the bankruptcy court's order confirming debtor's chapter 12 plan, concluding that the bankruptcy court erred by failing to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the value of the Bank's collateral where the collateral was disputed. The panel also concluded that the Bank needed to file a proof of claim. The panel explained that, until the bankruptcy court holds the requisite evidentiary hearing and determines the value of the Bank's collateral, it is impossible to say whether under the debtor's plan the Bank will be paid not less than the allowed amount of its secured claim. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. Finally, the panel concluded that the record amply supports the bankruptcy court's finding of disposable income under 11 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(B). View "Citizens State Bank v. Schiller" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the discharge order was ambiguous as to whether plaintiff's private educational loans were discharged. The lender maintains that 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8)(A)(ii) prevented the loans from being discharged in plaintiff's bankruptcy.The Second Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's denial of the lender's motion to dismiss after concluding that section 523(a)(8)(A)(ii)—which excepts from discharge "an obligation to repay funds received as an educational benefit, scholarship, or stipend"—does not cover private student loans. View "Homaidan v. Sallie Mae, Inc." on Justia Law