Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

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Morrison Informatics, Inc. (the “Company”) filed a petition for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy relief in September 2009. In May 2011, the Company and two shareholders, who also were officers of the corporation, commenced a civil action in the court of common pleas against Members 1st Federal Credit Union, Mark Zampelli, and Scott Douglass. In the ensuing complaint, the Company and the Shareholders asserted that, beginning sometime after January 2005 and continuing into 2009, the Company’s finance manager, Zampelli, had colluded with a Credit Union relationships officer, Douglass, to embezzle Company funds. The complaint advanced claims against the Credit Union, Zampelli, and Douglass variously sounding in fraud, conversion, civil conspiracy, and negligence. The question this case presented for the Supreme Court's review concerned whether a federal bankruptcy trustee could be substituted as a plaintiff in a civil action previously commenced by the debtor in bankruptcy in a Pennsylvania state court, although the statutory limitations period expired prior to the attempted substitution. "Although we recognize that the interests of a debtor and a trustee may diverge in some respects, we find it most important that trustees’ interests are derivative, and accordingly, they generally cannot assert any greater rights as against defendants than debtors could have in the first instance." The Supreme Court departed from the Superior Court’s focus on the continued “existence” of the Company after the initiation of insolvency proceedings, and the Court rejected a strict rule foreclosing a relation-back approach to substitution of a bankruptcy trustee for a debtor. Instead, the Court held that relation back in favor of a federal bankruptcy trustee was appropriate, at least where the trustee has acted in a reasonably diligent fashion to secure his or her substitution, and there is no demonstrable prejudice to defendants. View "Morrison Info. v. Members 1st FCU" on Justia Law