Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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In August 2007, C.W. Mining, an entity operating a coal mine in Utah, deposited $362,000 with the Bank of Utah; in turn, the Bank issued a certificate of deposit to C.W. Mining for that same amount. In January 2008, creditors filed an involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition against C.W. Mining. The Chapter 11 proceeding was converted to a Chapter 7. The Bank liquidated the certificate of deposit, which then had a value of $383,099. Utilizing its common-law right of offset, it applied the proceeds to the balance owing on two of three promissory notes executed by C.W. Mining in favor of the Bank in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Although the Bank knew of the bankruptcy proceeding when it liquidated the certificate of deposit, it did not inform the Trustee. The Trustee became aware of the transfer after the Bank assigned its remaining secured interest in the promissory notes and loan agreements to a third party and the third party sought payment from the Estate. The Trustee then commenced an adversary proceeding seeking to recover $383,099 from the Bank. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. In his motion, the Trustee argued the transfer should be avoided under 11 U.S.C. 549 as an unauthorized post-petition transfer and he should have been permitted to recover the $383,099 pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 550. In the alternative, he sought a declaration the transfer was void as a violation of the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. 362(a) and an order for turnover pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 542. After considering all of these arguments, the bankruptcy court entered summary judgment in favor of the Bank. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the Bank. View "C.W. Mining Company, et al v. Bank of Utah, et al" on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals from two Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings, the Debtors challenged the district court’s order reversing confirmation of their reorganization plans and remanding their cases to the bankruptcy court for further proceedings. Because the Tenth Circuit concluded it lacked jurisdiction to consider these appeals, the Court dismissed them. View "Gordon, et al v. Bank of America, N.A., et al" on Justia Law

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Appellant First National Bank of Durango appealed the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel's (BAP's) decision to affirm the bankruptcy court's confirmation of the Chapter 12 bankruptcy plan of Appellees Reson and Shaun Woods. Although First National Bank raised several issues on appeal, the Tenth Circuit only reached the first: whether the Debtors were permitted to seek relief under Chapter 12 as "family farmers." The issue was one of first impression for the Tenth Circuit: when does a debt "for" a principal residence "arise[] out of a farming operation"? Upon review, the Court concluded that such a debt so arises if it is directly and substantially connected to any of the activities constituting a "farming operation" within the meaning of 11 U.S.C. 101(21). If the loan proceeds were used directly for or in a farming operation, the debt "arises out of" that farming operation. Because the Court concluded that the bankruptcy court did not apply the proper legal standard and test in its analysis of Debtors' eligibility for Chapter 12 relief, the Court remanded the case back to the bankruptcy court so that the correct law could be applied to the facts of this case. View "First National Bank of Durango, et al v. Woods, et al" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the Tenth Circuit considered a novel question: Does issue preclusion apply in bankruptcy court to a final determination in district court that a party waived an issue? Upon review of the circumstances of this case and the applicable statutes, the Court concluded issue preclusion did not apply to the waiver finding here. The Court reversed the judgment of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel and remanded this case for the bankruptcy court to reinstate its order. View "Clark v. Zwanziger" on Justia Law

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C.W. Mining Company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This case arose from the sale of assets from the company's bankruptcy estate. The four appellants did business with C.W. Mining before its involuntary bankruptcy. Appellants claimed bankruptcy trustee should not have sold certain assets to plaintiff Rhino Energy, LLC. The Tenth Circuit surmised that the question for each appellant in this case was whether relief could be granted that would not impact the sale's validity. The Court: (1) dismissed Rhino and its wholly owned subsidiary, Castle Valley Mining, LLC, from the appeals, finding no appeal sought any relief affecting either entity; (2) agreed with the district court with regard to appellee Kenneth Rushton (the bankruptcy trustee in this case), that ANR Company's appeal, COP Coal Development Company's first appeal, and Hiawatha Coal Company's first appeal were all moot; (3) affirmed the district court on COP's and Hiawatha's second appeals; and (4) reversed with regard to Charles Reynolds' appeal. View "ANR Company, Inc. v. C.O.P. Coal Development Co." on Justia Law

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The sole issue presented to the Tenth Circuit in this appeal stemmed on whether the bankruptcy trustee could avoid an entire annual transfer or only a portion exceeding 15% a restricted debtor's gross annual income to a religious or charitable organization. The bankruptcy court and Bankruptcy Court of Appeals (BAP) said circumstances here only permitted the trustee to avoid the portion of the transfer exceeding 15%. Because that result was contrary to the plain language of the statute, the Tenth Circuit reversed. View "Wadsworth v. The Word of Life Center" on Justia Law

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Cross-Appellee/Appellant Eloisa Taylor appealed a decision of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Tenth Circuit (BAP) that affirmed a United States Bankruptcy Court decision. The bankruptcy court granted summary judgment in favor of Eloisa’s former spouse, Matthew Taylor. The bankruptcy court determined that a $50,660.59 debt Eloisa owed to Matthew for overpayment of spousal support was nondischargeable because Eloisa incurred the debt “in connection with a separation agreement.” Matthew’s assertion that the debt was nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(5) as a “domestic support obligation” was previously dismissed by the bankruptcy court for failure to state a claim. Matthew filed a cross appeal from that ruling and from the BAP’s ruling that neither it, nor the bankruptcy court, had authority under the parties’ divorce settlement agreement to award Matthew attorney fees that he incurred during the bankruptcy proceeding. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the bankruptcy court’s ruling that the debt was nondischargeable under section 523(a)(15). With regard to Matthew’s cross appeal, the Court affirmed both the bankruptcy court’s ruling that the debt was not excepted from discharge under 523(a)(5), and the BAP’s denial of Matthew’s request for attorney fees. View "Taylor v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Ute Mesa, a Colorado real estate developer, received a multi-million dollar loan to construct a single family home on property it owned in Aspen. To secure the loan, United Western Bank prepared a deed of trust incorrectly identifying Ute Mesa's sole member as the owner rather than Ute Mesa. The Bank filed suit seeking a reformation of the deed of trust and a declaration that it had a first priority lien on the property. Days later, the Bank filed notice of lis pendens in the county real property records. Ute Mesa filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief, and continued as debtor-in-possession of the property. Ute Mesa then filed an adversary proceeding against the Bank to avoid the lis pendens as a preferential transfer. The bankruptcy court granted the Bank's motion to dismiss, and the federal district court affirmed. Ute Mesa argued on appeal that a "transfer of an interest in property" occurs when a bona fide purchaser cannot acquire an interest superior to that of a creditor. According to Ute Mesa, because the lis pendens prevented a bona fide purchaser from acquiring an interest in the property superior to the Bank’s interest, the lis pendens qualified as a transfer of an interest in the property. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, finding that a lis pendens is "merely a notice" and does not constitute a lien, therefore, no transfer occurred. View "Ute Mesa Lot 1, LLC v. First Citizens Bank & Trust, et al" on Justia Law

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Debtor-Appellant Market Center East Retail Property, Inc. appealed the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel's affirming of the bankruptcy court's award of attorney's fees to Appellees Barak Lurie and his firm, Lurie & Park. Lurie was Market Center’s attorney in completing the sale of a retail shopping center to Lowe’s Home Center. Market Center argued: (1) the bankruptcy court erred in calculating the amount of attorney’s fees because the bankruptcy court should have used the lodestar approach in its calculations; (2) that the 11 U.S.C. 330(a)(3) factors were an exhaustive list of factors that the bankruptcy court was required to consider; and (3) that Congress intended 11 U.S.C. 330(a) to be construed consistently with case law for awarding attorney's fees under federal fee-shifting statutes such as 42 U.S.C. 1988. While the Tenth Circuit did not agree with Market Center in all regards, the Court nonetheless reversed and remanded for reconsideration of the fees. View "Market Center East Retail Prop, et al v. Lurie, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Richard and Susan Queen sued Defendant TA Operating, LLC for an injury Mr. Queen sustained when he slipped and fell in a parking lot operated by TA. During the court of the proceedings, the Queens filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but did not disclose this case in its bankruptcy pleadings. TA learned of the omission and brought it to the attention of the bankruptcy trustee. The Queens amended their bankruptcy petition, providing an estimate of the value of its litigation with TA for the slip and fall. The Queens were ultimately granted a no-asset discharge in bankruptcy. TA then moved the district court to dismiss on the grounds of judicial estoppel because the Queens did not disclose the lawsuit in their bankruptcy proceedings. The district court granted TA summary judgment, and the Queens appealed, arguing the district court erred in applying judicial estoppel. Because the Queens adopted an inconsistent position that was accepted by the bankruptcy court, and because the Queens would receive an unfair advantage if not estopped from pursuing the district court action, the Tenth Circuit concluded it was not an abuse of discretion to grant TA summary judgment. View "Queen, et al v. TA Operating, LLC" on Justia Law