Justia Bankruptcy Opinion Summaries

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In 2008, the Blasingames met with attorneys Fullen and Grusin to discuss their financial situation and signed engagement agreements. The Blasingames filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition with Fullen as the attorney of record. Fullen constructed the bankruptcy schedules, obtaining the Blasingames’ financial information from Grusin. The Blasingames claimed less than $6,000 in assets. The bankruptcy court later found the Blasingames failed to disclose millions of dollars in assets that they controlled through a complex web of family trusts, shell companies, and shifting “clearing accounts.”In 2011, the bankruptcy court granted the Trustee summary judgment, denying the Blasingames’ discharge and disqualified the attorneys from further representation of the Blasingames. Although the Blasingames’ new counsel was able to obtain relief from the summary judgment order, their discharge was again denied in 2015. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP) affirmed.A major creditor, CJV1, obtained derivative standing from the bankruptcy court to file a malpractice claim against the filing attorneys on behalf of the estate. CJV, in the bankruptcy court, and the Blasingames, in Tennessee state court, filed malpractice complaints. The bankruptcy court refused to approve the Blasingames’ settlement with the attorneys; the BAP and Sixth Circuit dismissed the Blasingame’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction. CJV asserted that the malpractice claims are property of the bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy court, the BAP, and the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the Blasingames. Under Tennessee law, the legal malpractice claims accrued arose post-petition. View "Church Joint Venture, L.P. v. Blasingame" on Justia Law

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Bullock petitioned for Chapter 13 bankruptcy but failed to disclose on his Schedule B list of assets a pending workers’ compensation claim. On his Schedule C list of exemptions, he failed to declare an exemption for the claim. Bullock proposed a 60-month plan of reorganization to pay $148 per month plus possible tax refunds. The bankruptcy court confirmed the plan in October 2014. In 2017, Bullock received a workers’ compensation settlement award for $92,430.84. The trustee moved to compel Bullock to disclose it. Bullock then listed the settlement proceeds as personal property on Schedule B and declared the proceeds exempt on Schedule C under 820 ILCS 305/21; 735 ILCS. 5/12-1001(b). The trustee successfully moved to compel Bullock to file an amended plan under 11 U.S.C. 1329(a) that would provide for the turnover of Bullock’s workers’ compensation award for distributions to general unsecured creditors. Bullock had already spent the award proceeds. The bankruptcy court confirmed Bullock’s amended plan, requiring Bullock to pay a lump-sum of approximately $15,000 before the plan’s expiration. Bullock failed to make the final payment under the plan. An appeal from the dismissal of the bankruptcy case is pending. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the adversary proceeding on mootness grounds. That issue is mooted because he complied with the very order requiring the reorganization plan’s amendment that he now seeks to challenge and because his underlying bankruptcy case was dismissed. View "Bullock v. Simon" on Justia Law

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After debtor filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, his bankruptcy plan proposed retention of his GMC Sierra, "cram down" of the loan for the purchase of the Sierra, and surrender of the Toyota Camry as collateral for the purchase of the Camry. The bankruptcy court approved the plan, but the district court reversed.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. The court explained that the text of 11 U.S.C. 1325(a)(5) does allow debtors to select a different option "with respect to each allowed secured claim." However, allowing a debtor to select a different section 1325(a)(5) option for each claim is different from allowing a debtor to select different options for different collateral securing the same claim. While section 1325(a)(5) allows the former, it does not allow the latter: its use of the conjunction "or" between the options provided in subsection (A), (B), and (C) makes it clear that debtors may choose only one of those three options for each claim. The court stated that a plan violates that requirement when it selects different options for different collateral securing the same claim. Furthermore, Williams v. Tower Loan of Mississippi, 168 F.3d 845 (5th Cir. 1999), which held that debtors must select the same section 1325(a)(5) option for all of the collateral securing a single claim, supports the court's decision. In this case, for the plan to be approvable under section 1325(a)(5), the plan must select the same section 1325(a)(5) option for both items of collateral securing the Camry Loan—the Camry and the Sierra. View "Evolve Federal Credit Union v. Barragan-Flores" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's order denying relief requested by debtor for wrongful foreclosure in equity, holding that the record supports the bankruptcy court's conclusion that debtor could not have been lulled by the Bank into a false sense of security regarding the foreclosure sale. In this case, debtor stipulated that "KeyBank advised Plaintiff that she had to contact KeyBank's foreclosure counsel to obtain a written payoff statement that included legal costs and fees;" the notes from the Bank's telephone records, a stipulated exhibit, indicate that debtor was so advised and nowhere in debtor's briefing does she dispute that; the call notes also establish that debtor called the Bank's foreclosure department as instructed; and while there is no evidence proving debtor's receipt of the Reinstatement Notice, there is evidence that the Bank advised her that the correct amount would be forthcoming in a letter. Therefore, the court found that the bankruptcy court's conclusion that debtor was advised by the Bank about the inaccuracy of the notification statement was not clearly erroneous. View "Courtney v. KeyBank N.A." on Justia Law

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The debtors each filed a bankruptcy petition and requested that the city return his vehicle, which had been impounded for failure to pay fines. The filing of a bankruptcy petition automatically “creates an estate,” 11 U.S.C. 541(a), that is intended to include any property made available by other provisions of the Bankruptcy Code. Section 542 provides that an entity in possession of bankruptcy estate property “shall deliver to the trustee, and account for” that property. The filing of a petition also automatically “operates as a stay, applicable to all entities,” of efforts to collect prepetition debts outside the bankruptcy forum, section 362(a), including “any act to obtain possession of property of the estate or of property from the estate or to exercise control over property of the estate.”Vacating a Seventh Circuit holding, the Supreme Court held that the mere retention of estate property after the filing of a bankruptcy petition does not violate section 362(a). That section prohibits affirmative acts that would disturb the status quo of estate property as of the time when the bankruptcy petition was filed. Reading section 362(a)(3) to cover mere retention of property would contradict section 542, which carves out exceptions to the turnover command. Under the debtors’ reading, an entity would be required to turn over property under section 362(a)(3) even if that property were exempt from turnover under section 542. View "Chicago v. Fulton" on Justia Law

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In 2007, GM sold a power plant to DTEPN, which leased the land under the plant for 10 years. DTEPN agreed to sell utilities produced at the plant to GM, to maintain the plant according to specific criteria, and to address any environmental issues. DTEPN’s parent company, Energy, guaranteed DTEPN’s utility, environmental, and maintenance obligations. Two years later, GM filed for bankruptcy. GM and DTEPN agreed to GM’s rejection of the contracts. DTEPN exercised its right to continue occupying the property. An environmental trust (RACER) assumed ownership of some GM industrial property, including the DTEPN land. DTEPN remained in possession until the lease expired. RACER then discovered that DTEPN had allowed the power plant to fall into disrepair and contaminate the property.The district court dismissed the claims against Energy, reasoning that RACER’s allegations did not support piercing the corporate veil and Energy’s guaranty terminated after GM rejected the contracts in bankruptcy.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Michigan courts have held that a breach of contract can justify piercing a corporate veil if the corporate form has been abused. By allegedly directing its wholly-owned subsidiary to stop maintaining the property, Energy exercised control over DTEPN in a way that wronged RACER. DTEPN is now judgment-proof because it was not adequately capitalized by Energy. RACER would suffer an unjust loss if the corporate veil is not pierced. Rejection in bankruptcy does not terminate the contract; the contract is considered breached, 11 U.S.C. 365(g). The utility services agreement and the lease are not severable from each other. Energy guaranteed DTEPN’s obligations under the utility agreement concerning maintenance, environmental costs, and remediation, so Energy’s guaranty is joined to DTEPN’s section 365(h) election. View "EPLET, LLC v. DTE Pontiac North, LLC" on Justia Law

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Gateway is a small business debtor in an active Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding seeking a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Gateway applied for a PPP loan and falsely stated that it was not in bankruptcy in order to be eligible for the program. When Gateway filed a motion for approval in the bankruptcy court, the SBA objected that Gateway was ineligible for a PPP loan because it was in bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court granted Gateway's motion anyway, concluding that the SBA's rule rendering bankruptcy debtors ineligible for PPP loans was an unreasonable interpretation of the statute, was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, and as a result was unlawful and unenforceable against Gateway.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the bankruptcy court's approval order, concluding that the SBA's rule is neither an unreasonable interpretation of the relevant statute nor arbitrary and capricious. The court concluded that the SBA did not exceed its authority in adopting the non-bankruptcy rule for PPP eligibility; the rule does not violate the CARES Act, is based on a reasonable interpretation of the Act, and the SBA did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in adopting the rule; and the bankruptcy court committed an error of law in concluding otherwise in its approval order and its preliminary injunction order. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed the appeal from the memorandum opinion for lack of jurisdiction. View "USF Federal Credit Union v. Gateway Radiology Consultants, P.A." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP) dismissing under the doctrine of equitable mootness this appeal brought by United Surety & Indemnification Company (USIC), holding that USIC's appeal was equitably moot.In 2013, Pedro Lopez-Munoz filed a voluntary petition for chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2018, the bankruptcy court confirmed a reorganization plan. One of Lopez-Munoz's creditors was USIC, which had an unsecured claim in the amount of $2,700,000. USIC appealed. The BAP dismissed USIC's appeal under the doctrine of equitable mootness. The First Circuit affirmed after analyzing the three factors for determining whether an appeal is equitably moot, holding that USIC's appeal was equitably moot. View "United Surety & Indemnity Co. v. Lopez-Munoz" on Justia Law

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Conti attended the University of Michigan, 1999-2003, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in musical arts. Conti obtained private loans from Citibank totaling $76,049. Conti’s loan applications are all expressly “[f]or students attending 4-year colleges and universities.” They request information regarding the school’s identity and the academic year and specify that the student may “borrow up to the full cost of education less any financial aid.” The applications include a section where the school financial aid office can certify the applicant’s year, enrollment status, and recommended disbursement dates. Each application incorporates by reference an attached promissory note, stating that “the proceeds of this loan are to be used for specific educational expenses.” Citibank apparently disbursed each loan to Michigan directly. None of the loan amounts exceeded the cost of attendance at Michigan for the relevant enrollment period minus the maximum sum of Conti's federal Pell grant for the same period. In 2011-2016, Conti made payments on the loans, which were assigned to Arrowood.In 2017, Conti filed for voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy, listing the Citibank loans as dischargeable. Conti filed an adversary proceeding seeking to determine that they were not excepted “qualified education loan[s]” under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8). The bankruptcy court granted Arrowood summary judgment. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed. The plain language of the loan documents demonstrated they were qualified education loans. View "Conti v. Arrowood Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment affirming the bankruptcy court's order granting debtor's motion to avoid a judicial lien. Debtor seeks, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 522(d)(1) and (f)(1)(A), to exempt her interest in, and avoid a judicial lien upon, a property that her dependent son uses as a non-primary residence.The court held that the term "residence" in the so-called homestead exemption of section 522(d)(1) includes both primary and nonprimary residences. In this case, the ordinary meaning of the word "residence" does not exclude non-primary residences. Furthermore, Congress's deliberate choice of terminology, the text of the statute, and the legislative history weigh in favor of the court's conclusion. View "Donovan v. Maresca" on Justia Law