Justia Bankruptcy Opinion Summaries

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In this case, Fieldwood Energy LLC, and its affiliates, who were previously among the largest oil and gas exploration and production companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 due to declining oil prices, the COVID–19 pandemic, and billions of dollars in decommissioning obligations. In the ensuing reorganization plan, some companies, referred to as the "Sureties", who had issued surety bonds to the debtors, were stripped of their subrogation rights. The Sureties appealed this loss in district court, which held their appeal to be statutorily and equitably moot. The Sureties appealed again to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, contending that a recent Supreme Court decision altered the landscape around statutory mootness and that the district court treated Section 363(m) as jurisdictional. However, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision, concluding that the Supreme Court’s recent decision did not change the application of Section 363(m) in this case, the district court did not treat the statute as jurisdictional, and the Sureties’ failure to obtain a stay was fatal to their challenge of the bankruptcy sale. The court also determined that the provisions stripping the Sureties of their subrogation rights were integral to the sale of the Debtors’ assets, making the challenge on appeal statutorily moot. View "Swiss Re Corporate Solutions America Insurance Co. v. Fieldwood Energy III, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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In this case, Autumn Wind Lending, LLC (Autumn Wind) had lent money to Insight Terminal Solutions, LLC (Insight) under an agreement that Insight would not incur any further debt without Autumn Wind's consent. However, Insight defaulted on the loan and filed for bankruptcy, during which it was revealed that it had taken on additional debt from other parties, including John J. Siegel and three family enterprises. Autumn Wind, which had become the parent company of Insight, then filed a lawsuit against these parties, alleging fraud and tortious interference. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was asked to decide whether the doctrine of res judicata, which bars relitigation of a claim that has been adjudicated, prevented Autumn Wind from bringing these claims. The court held that the doctrine of res judicata did not bar Autumn Wind from bringing its claims. The court reasoned that the claims had not been "actually litigated" because they were dismissed by stipulation in the bankruptcy court, not decided on the merits. Furthermore, Autumn Wind could not have litigated these claims in the bankruptcy court because it was not a party to the bankruptcy proceedings. The court therefore reversed the district court's dismissal of Autumn Wind's claims and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Autumn Wind Lending, LLC v. Siegel" on Justia Law

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The United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded a decision from the bankruptcy court in a case involving unpaid child support. The debtor, Justin Gary LaMonda, petitioned for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 7. He was married to Natalia LaMonda, and after they divorced, he was ordered to pay child support. The case has been converted multiple times, from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13, and then back to Chapter 7 again. Natalia LaMonda filed an unsecured priority claim for unpaid child support, which the Chapter 7 Trustee objected to. The bankruptcy court sustained the Trustee's objection, leading to this appeal.The Appellate Panel found that Natalia LaMonda's claim for unpaid child support arose after the order for relief and before the case was converted under section 1307 of the Bankruptcy Code. According to the Panel, her claim should therefore be treated as if it arose before the petition date, making it eligible for treatment as a priority unsecured claim. Thus, the Panel held that the bankruptcy court erred by disallowing Natalia LaMonda's claim based on the Trustee's objection. The case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "LaMonda v. Harder" on Justia Law

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This case involves Vertiv, Inc., Vertiv Capital, Inc., and Gnaritis, Inc., Delaware corporations, who sued Wayne Burt, PTE Ltd., a Singaporean corporation, for defaulting on a loan. Vertiv sought damages and a declaratory judgment. Later, Wayne Burt informed the court that it was in liquidation proceedings in Singapore and moved to vacate the judgments against it. The District Court granted the motion and vacated the judgments, reopening the cases. Wayne Burt then moved to dismiss Vertiv’s claims, either on international comity grounds in deference to the ongoing liquidation proceedings in Singapore, or due to a lack of personal jurisdiction. The District Court granted Wayne Burt’s motion to dismiss, concluding that extending comity to the Singaporean court proceedings was appropriate.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the District Court's decision and remanded the case. The court clarified the standard to apply when deciding whether to abstain from adjudicating a case in deference to a pending foreign bankruptcy proceeding. The court held that a U.S. civil action is “parallel” to a foreign bankruptcy proceeding when: (1) the foreign bankruptcy proceeding is ongoing in a duly authorized tribunal while the civil action is pending in the U.S. court; and (2) the outcome of the U.S. civil action may affect the debtor’s estate. The court also held that a party seeking the extension of comity must show that (1) “the foreign bankruptcy law shares the U.S. policy of equal distribution of assets,” and (2) “the foreign law mandates the issuance or at least authorizes the request for the stay.” If a party makes a prima facie case for comity, the court should then determine whether extending comity would be prejudicial to U.S. interests. If a U.S. court decides to extend comity to a foreign bankruptcy proceeding, it should ordinarily stay the civil action or dismiss it without prejudice. View "Vertiv Inc. v. Wayne Burt PTE Ltd" on Justia Law

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In this case, Louisiana Pellets (LAP) built a wood processing facility but encountered financial issues that led to bankruptcy. LAP pursued Chapter 11 bankruptcy and a bankruptcy judge confirmed a Chapter 11 plan along with a liquidating trust agreement. Under the agreement, LAP transferred its remaining assets and causes of actions to the trust. More than a year after the creation of the trust, third parties assigned certain legal claims to the trust that the trustee, Craig Jalbert, pursued in state court. The claims involved misstatements made by Raymond James & Associates in its efforts to raise funds to construct LAP's facility. In response to Jalbert's filing, Raymond James asserted affirmative defenses, citing a pre-bankruptcy indemnity agreement it made with LAP.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that Raymond James could not maintain those defenses against the assigned claims. The court reasoned that the express language of the confirmation plan enjoined Raymond James's defensive maneuver. Also, the post-confirmation trust is not the appropriate entity against whom to invoke LAP's indemnity obligation. The court affirmed the bankruptcy court's ruling. View "Raymond James & Assoc v. Jalbert" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit addressed an unprecedented issue in its circuit regarding the sale of preference claims arising under 11 U.S.C. § 547, in the context of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The court was required to decide whether such claims could be sold and if the purchaser had the standing to pursue them.The case was initiated by South Coast Supply Company (South Coast), which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after experiencing financial difficulties. During the proceedings, the company borrowed funds from its then-CFO, Robert Remmert. South Coast later filed a lawsuit against Remmert to avoid more than $300,000 of allegedly preferential transfers made before the bankruptcy proceedings. The company's sole secured lender, Briar Capital Working Fund Capital, L.L.C. (Briar Capital), eventually acquired South Coast's interest in this pending preference action against Remmert.Upon acquiring the lawsuit, Briar Capital was substituted as the assignee of South Coast. Remmert argued that Briar Capital lacked standing to prosecute the preference action. The district court agreed, holding that since a successful recovery would not benefit South Coast’s estate or its unsecured creditors, Briar Capital lacked standing to bring the preference claim against Remmert as a representative of the estate under 11 U.S.C. § 1123(b)(3)(B) of the Bankruptcy Code.On appeal, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The court held that preference actions can be sold pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 363(b)(1) because they are property of the estate under 11 U.S.C. §§ 541(a)(1) and (7). Furthermore, even if Briar Capital does not qualify as a representative of the estate, it has standing to pursue the preference claim as it validly purchased the claim outright. Therefore, the court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Briar Capital Working Fund v. Remmert" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit considered an appeal from a ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico concerning the restructuring of debts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's public power company (PREPA) under Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). The appellants, GoldenTree Asset Management and Syncora Guarantee (the "Bondholders"), held around $1 billion of PREPA's roughly $8 billion in bonds and sought relief from the automatic stay on actions against PREPA's estate, hoping to appoint a receiver for PREPA.The Bondholders argued that the automatic stay lifted by operation of law, because the district court denied their latest motion for relief without first noticing and holding a hearing within the timeframe prescribed by 11 U.S.C. § 362(e)(1). However, the appellate court held that the Bondholders waived their right to a prompt notice and hearing on that motion for relief. The court reasoned that the Bondholders accepted a litigation schedule that postponed any hearing on their request for leave to seek the appointment of a receiver until after a parallel proceeding about whether—and to what extent—the Bondholders had any collateral to protect in the first place. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the Title III court. View "GoldenTree Asset Management LP v. Financial Oversight and Management Board" on Justia Law

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This case involves the bankruptcy of FTX Trading Ltd., a multibillion-dollar cryptocurrency company that suffered a severe financial collapse. The collapse triggered criminal investigations revealing fraud and embezzlement of customers' funds, leading to the conviction of Samuel Bankman-Fried, FTX's primary owner. Following the financial collapse, the United States Trustee requested the appointment of an examiner to investigate FTX's management as per 11 U.S.C. § 1104(c)(2). The Bankruptcy Court denied the motion, interpreting the appointment of an examiner as discretionary under the statute.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the lower court's decision. The Appellate Court held that the appointment of an examiner under 11 U.S.C. § 1104(c)(2) is mandatory when requested by the U.S. Trustee or a party in interest, and if the debtor's total fixed, liquidated, unsecured debt exceeds $5 million. The Court based its decision on the plain text of the statute, ruling that the word "shall" in the statute creates an obligation impervious to judicial discretion. The Court also held that the phrase "as is appropriate" in Section 1104(c) refers to the nature of the investigation and not the appointment of the examiner. The case was remanded with instructions to order the appointment of an examiner. View "FTX Trading, Ltd. v. Vara" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Mississippi examined whether a school district was entitled to funds recovered by a county from the bankruptcy proceedings of a delinquent taxpayer. The taxes, if collected normally, would have been used to fund the school district. However, the county board of supervisors had anticipated the delinquency and adjusted the levy of ad valorem taxes to compensate, ensuring the school district did not experience a shortfall. The school district argued it was entitled to its original portion of the recovered bankruptcy funds, but the county claimed that this would result in a double recovery outside the statutory scheme for public school funding. The Supreme Court of Mississippi found in favor of the county, ruling that the recovery of delinquent taxes through bankruptcy proceedings is outside the statutory funding scheme for public school districts in Mississippi. The court found that the school district was not entitled to receive delinquent taxes recovered years later in bankruptcy proceedings and reversed and remanded the lower court's award to the school district. View "Clarke County, Mississippi v. Quitman School District" on Justia Law

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The case concerns the dischargeability of debts under the Bankruptcy Code. The debtor, Lee Andrew Hilgartner, physically assaulted Yasuko Yagi, resulting in two settlement agreements. When Hilgartner failed to pay the agreed amount, Yagi sued to enforce the agreement. Hilgartner filed for bankruptcy, arguing that the debts were dischargeable since they arose from a breach of the settlement agreement, not the underlying tort of assault. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, however, ruled that the debts were non-dischargeable under section 523(a)(6) of the Bankruptcy Code, which excepts from discharge debts “for willful and malicious injury” to another. The court held that the debt from the settlement agreement, which arose from a willful and malicious injury, retained the character of the underlying tort. Therefore, the debt, including the principal amount owed, interest on late payments, and attorney's fees incurred in enforcing the agreement and contesting the bankruptcy proceedings, was non-dischargeable. The court reasoned that the entire settlement arose from the same willful and malicious injuries and that the settlement agreement didn't disrupt the causal chain. View "Yagi v. Hilgartner" on Justia Law