Justia Bankruptcy Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
Saunders v. National Collegiate Athletic Association
A Mississippi trial court dismissed David Saunders’s claims against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) based on judicial estoppel because Saunders did not list these claims in his prior Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Until December 2010, Saunders served as football operations coordinator at the University of Mississippi. From January 2011 to October 2014, Saunders worked as an assistant football coach for the University of Louisiana. Based on Saunders’s alleged rule violations while at each institution, the NCAA conducted separate investigations and enforcement proceedings against both schools. The NCAA concluded Saunders had violated NCAA rules while at Louisiana. As punishment, the NCAA issued a show-cause directive to any NCAA member institution that may want to employ Saunders in an athletics position from January 2016 to January 2024. Saunders retained an attorney to represent him in NCAA proceedings. The attorney insisted financial strain prevented Saunders from traveling to defend himself personally. After a second show-cause directive, Saunders and his attorney discussed suing the NCAA, but at that time he did not pursue a lawsuit. Months later, Saunders filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy averring he had no claims against third parties. Saunders received a bankruptcy discharge in July 2018. Almost two years later, Saunders sued the NCAA: it was not until another football coach sued the NCAA, and made it past the summary judgment stage, that Saunders believed he had an actual shot at taking on the NCAA in court. The NCAA simultaneously filed an answer and a motion for summary judgment. In both, it asserted Saunders’s claims were barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel because Saunders had not disclosed these claims against the NCAA in his 2018 bankruptcy proceedings. The court ruled that Saunders’s claims against the NCAA belonged to Saunders’s bankruptcy estate, so the bankruptcy trustee was substituted as the real party in interest and plaintiff in the action. Further, while judicial estoppel did not bar the trustee from pursuing these claims for the benefit of the bankruptcy estate, Saunders himself was barred by judicial estoppel from pursuing his claims against the NCAA, including the declaratory-relief claim abandoned by the bankruptcy trustee. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred for two reasons: (1) the trial judge erred by estopping Saunders from pursuing this type of declaratory relief; and (2) it was error for the trial court to presume Saunders should be estopped based on his mere knowledge of the facts giving rise to his claims against the NCAA, coupled with his failure to list these claims on his bankruptcy schedule. View "Saunders v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law
Jones v. Alcorn State University, et al.
Ernest Jones appealed a circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Board of Trustees of the State of Institutions of Higher Learning of the State of Mississippi (IHL) because the doctrine of judicial estoppel barred his claims. Jones became the head football coach at Alcorn State University. Subsequently, he filed a breach of contract action against the IHL on in 2008. Jones was fired in January 2009. In October 2015, Jones petitioned a bankruptcy court in Florida for protection from his creditors. Jones failed to disclose the breach of contract suit against the IHL in the bankruptcy schedule’s “list of suits and administrative proceedings to which the debtor was a party within one year immediately preceding the filing of this bankruptcy case.” A jury returned a verdict in Jones’ favor in his breach of contract suit. On the day of the verdict, he voluntarily dismissed his bankruptcy proceeding. IHL moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the circuit court set aside the verdict. Then in April 2017, while Jones’s appeal was pending before the Court of Appeals, he filed a second bankruptcy petition, this time, Jones proposed and filed a Chapter 13 plan. Despite the pending appeal, Jones again failed to disclose the IHL suit to the bankruptcy court, attesting under oath that no such claims existed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the IHL suit. Back at the circuit court, IHL moved for summary judgment, arguing judicial estoppel barred Jones from recovery. Within ten days of the IHL’s seeking dismissal, Jones moved to amend his bankruptcy plan and for the first time disclosed the IHL lawsuit. Thereafter, the circuit court held a hearing on the IHL’s motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no abuse of the circuit court’s discretion in applying judicial estoppel to the facts found in this record. View "Jones v. Alcorn State University, et al." on Justia Law
Lefoldt v. Rentfro
After Natchez Regional Medical Center (“NRMC”) filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, H. Kenneth Lefoldt, who had been appointed trustee for the NRMC Liquidation Trust, sued NRMC’s former directors and officers in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleging breach of fiduciary duties of care, good faith, and loyalty. The directors and officers sought dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and argued that they were immune under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). The district court agreed and granted dismissal to the directors and officers. Lefoldt appealed, and the Fifth Circuit certified questions of Mississippi Law to the Mississippi Supreme Court pertaining to the MTCA as the exclusive remedy for a bankruptcy trustee standing in the shoes of a public hospital corporation against the employees or directors of that public corporation. If indeed the MTCA was the exclusive remedy, then did the MTCA permit the trustee to pursue any claims against the officers and directors in their personal capacity? The Mississippi Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative: the MTCA did not furnish the exclusive remedy for the bankruptcy trustee. View "Lefoldt v. Rentfro" on Justia Law