Justia Bankruptcy Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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In 2007, plaintiffs-respondents Jason Rubin and Cira Ross, as cotrustees of the Cira Ross Qualified Domestic Trust (judgment creditors) obtained a civil judgment against defendant-appellant David Ross (judgment debtor). In 2009, Ross filed for voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In April 2019, following an order denying judgment debtor a discharge in bankruptcy, judgment creditors filed for renewal of their judgment pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 683.120 and 683.130. Ross moved to vacate the judgment on the ground that judgment creditors failed to seek renewal within the 10-year time period proscribed in Code of Civil Procedure section 683.130. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that judgment creditor’s renewal was timely because title 11 United States Code section 108(c) provided for an extension of time within which to seek renewal. Ross appealed, arguing that judgment creditors were not precluded from seeking renewal by his bankruptcy proceeding and, therefore, section 108(c) 2 did not apply to provide an extension of time to seek renewal of their judgment. The Court of Appeal agreed that judgment creditors were not barred from seeking statutory renewal of their judgment during the pendency of judgment debtor’s bankruptcy proceeding, but concluded that the extension provided for in section 108(c) applied regardless. Thus, the Court affirmed the trial court’s order. View "Rubin v. Ross" on Justia Law

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Fireman’s Fund issued insurance covering property damage at Stephens's warehouse. Three days after the policy became effective, Stephens discovered that burglars stripped the property of all electrical and conductive material. Stephens filed an insurance coverage suit, retaining attorney O’Reilly who had a first lien to assure payment of fees. The trial court entered judgment NOV, awarding Stephens nothing. O’Reilly withdrew from the case and was the subject of an involuntary bankruptcy petition. Following a remand, Stephens and Fund settled for $5.8 million. The bankruptcy estate claimed 40% of the settlement. Danko, the largest creditor, bought the claim and obtained the Stephens's files from the trustee. Based on O’Reilly’s failure to sign the retainer agreement, Stephens sent Danko a letter voiding the retainer agreement and sought declaratory relief. The court ordered Danko to return Stephens’s client file and granted a special motion to strike (anti-SLAPP) a claim for breach of trust against Fund based on the theory that Fund breached a fiduciary duty to O’Reilly and/or the bankruptcy estate by failing to advise the bankruptcy court of the Stephens-Fund settlement and “secretly disbursing” the proceeds and a claim for interference with prospective business advantage against Fund based on the same acts. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of Stephens’s motion to disqualify the Danko from representing the corporate entity to which Danko assigned the claim; a protective discovery order regarding Stephens’s client file; and the anti-SLAPP order. View "O&C Creditors Group, LLC v. Stephens & Stephens XII, LLC" on Justia Law

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A 401k plan that a debtor, like the one in this case, creates and controls with the avowed purpose of protecting his assets from creditors is not a plan principally designed and used for retirement purposes, thereby rendering the funds in that plan fully exempt from levy. The Court of Appeal held that debtor's transferred funds to that 401(k) plan did not negate the partially exempt status those funds previously held while in the individual retirement accounts. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's ruling declaring that the funds were fully exempt from levy and remanded for the trial court to assess the extent of the partial exemption. View "O'Brien v. AMBS Diagnostics, LLC" on Justia Law

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In May 1995, Charlene’s parents created CJPM Family Partnership, Ltd. Charlene’s parents are the general partners. Charlene, her parents, and her siblings are limited partners of CJPM. Philip and Charlene married in June 1995. CJPM made three loans to Philip totaling $150,000, which were credited against Charlene’s partnership interest. Philip did not repay the debt. The two divorced in 2011. Their stipulated dissolution judgment awarded Charlene all interest to any community interest in CJPM, assigned to Philip, as his separate obligation, his debt to CJPM, and required Philip to indemnify Charlene from that debt. Philip filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. All of his debts, including his CJPM loan, were discharged. Years later, Charlene unsuccessfully moved to reopen bankruptcy proceedings to obtain a ruling that Philip’s debt to CJPM was nondischargeable. Charlene then moved to recover Philip’s CJPM debt in state court. The trial court determined that Philip’s CJPM debt was nondischargeable under the 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(15) exemption and calculated that Philip owes Charlene $345,963. The court of appeal affirmed. When the nature of a debt is such that its discharge will directly and adversely impact the finances of the debtor’s spouse or former spouse, it is nondischargeable in bankruptcy, even if it is not directly payable to the spouse. View "Marriage of Vaughn" on Justia Law

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Defendant Anice Plikaytis appealed an order awarding her attorneys' fees in a breach of contract action brought by plaintiff Debra Roth. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal agreed with Plikaytis's contention that the trial court erred when it declined to consider previously filed documents she incorporated by reference as part of her motion. In the unpublished portions of the opinion, the Court discussed Plikaytis's arguments that: (1) the court failed to apply the lodestar method; (2) erroneously denied fees for equitable and cross-claims and for obtaining relief from bankruptcy stays; and (3) substantially reduced her award without explanation. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred by denying fees for obtaining bankruptcy stay relief that related to the breach claim and failing to provide an adequate justification for significantly reducing the number of hours allowed. Accordingly, the trial court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the matter remanded with directions. View "Roth v. Plikaytis" on Justia Law