Justia Bankruptcy Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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Plaintiff filed suit against Bay Point in state court and added DCT as a plaintiff in an amended complaint, alleging that Bay Point's foreclosure of two properties caused him to lose the collateral's value exceeding the debt balance, and to suffer mental anguish. After Bay Point removed to bankruptcy court, the district court affirmed the bankruptcy court's order in favor of Bay Point. Plaintiff and DCT appealed, but then the district court granted DCT's motion to dismiss. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff lacked Article III standing, because he failed to allege a particularized, actual injury. Furthermore, plaintiff was not a person aggrieved. Therefore, plaintiff may not appeal the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's order. View "Thakkar v. Bay Point Capital Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the Chapter 7 Trustee's request to use his powers under the bankruptcy code to avoid Wells Fargo's security interest in debtor's real property. The court rejected the Trustee's argument that, under Georgia law, security deeds in land were required to be attested at least by two witnesses. Rather, the court stated that the deed (1) must be attested by or acknowledged before an officer and (2) must also be attested or acknowledged by one additional witness. The court explained that the use of the word "or" in "attested or acknowledged" plainly contemplates these two acts as alternative methods of authenticating a security deed. In this case, where the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous, the court stated that judicial construction was not only unnecessary but forbidden. Furthermore, this common-sense reading of the statute was reflected in Supreme Court of Georgia precedent. View "Gordon v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that debtor's Massachusetts income tax return debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy. The court held that 11 U.S.C. 523 does not incorporate a mandatory precondition that a tax return must be timely filed to be dischargeable; under Massachusetts tax law, a late-filed tax return does not automatically cease having the status of a "return" merely because it was filed late; and, whether or not section 523 incorporates the Beard test or Massachusetts state law, the bankruptcy court's discharge order included debtor's tax debt. View "Massachusetts Department of Revenue v. Shek" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Rushmore, seeking class certifications on claims arising under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Florida Consumer Protection Practices Act (FDCCPA). Plaintiffs alleged that Rushmore made false, deceptive, and misleading representations when it sent mortgage statements and attempted to collect on their mortgage debt after they received a Chapter 7 discharge. The district court denied class certification. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion because at the first step of the predominance analysis it erroneously classified the question of whether the Bankruptcy Code precluded or preempted the FDCPA and FCCPA claims as raising an individual, rather than common, issue. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to reconsider plaintiffs' class certification motion in light of the court's conclusion that this question was common to all class members. View "Sellers v. Rushmore Loan Management Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's order revoking the discharge of debtors' debt. Debtors claimed that the trustee had pre-discharge knowledge of the alleged conduct that resulted in the revocation. The court held that the "lack-of-knowledge" requirement that is explicitly contained in one subsection of the bankruptcy statute, 11 U.S.C. 727(d)(1), cannot be read into the adjacent subsection of the same statute, 11 U.S.C. 727(d)(2), thereby barring revocation. The court need not reach the factual determination of whether the trustee had prior knowledge of the fraud issue, because it would be inappropriate to rewrite section 727(d)(2) to include that requirement. Therefore, the court held that the bankruptcy court and district court correctly interpreted section 727(d)(2). View "Thompson v. Gargula" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's denial of debtor's second motion for sanctions against Nationstar. Debtor alleged that Nationstar's conduct of sending a monthly statement to Roth to collect discharged mortgage debt was in violation of the bankruptcy code. The court held that the Informational Statement sent by Nationstar was not an improper attempt at debt collection in violation of 11 U.S.C. 524(a)(2), because there were several bases to conclude that the objective effect of the statement was not to pressure debtor to repay a discharged debt. Therefore, sanctions were not appropriate under 11 U.S.C. 105. The court noted that, even if there was a section 524 violation, sanctions under section 105 were unavailable under the Supreme Court's recent decision in Taggart v. Lorenzen, 139 S. Ct. 1795, 1801 (2019), because there was more than a fair ground of doubt as to whether the discharge order barred Nationstar's conduct. Finally, the court held that the bankruptcy court did not err by failing to hold an evidentiary hearing. View "Roth v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

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Debtor Walter Energy petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and sought to sell substantially all of its assets as a going concern. The bankruptcy court exercised its authority under the Retiree Benefits Bankruptcy Protection Act of 1988 (RBBPA) and terminated Walter Energy's obligation to pay premiums. The Funds appealed to the district court, which affirmed the bankruptcy court's judgment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, and held that the bankruptcy court had the authority to modify the premiums that Walter Energy owed the Funds. The panel held that the RBBPA authorized the bankruptcy court to terminate Walter Energy’s obligation to pay premiums, even though the premiums were imposed by statute and Walter Energy was pursuing liquidation under Chapter 11, not a classic reorganization. View "United Mine Workers of America Combined Benefit Fund v. Toffel" on Justia Law

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For a debt to be "provided for" by a plan under 11 U.S.C. 1328(a), the bankruptcy plan must make a provision for or stipulate to the debt in the plan. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court and district court, holding that debtor's bankruptcy plan did not discharge the Credit Union's mortgage. In this case, debtor's plan did nothing more than state that the Credit Union's mortgage would be paid outside the plan, but it was not "provided for" and was not discharged. The court further held that, even if the debt was provided for, discharge of the debt would violate section 1322(b)(2) by modifying the Credit Union's right under the original loan documents to obtain a deficiency judgment against debtor. Finally, the issue of whether the Credit Union's failure to file a proof of claim for its first mortgage resulted in the mortgage's discharge was not preserved for appeal. View "Dukes v. Suncoast Credit Union" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Bankruptcy Court's order dismissing a fraudulent conveyance claim by the trustee of the liquidating trust of Teltronics against Harris and RPX. The court held that the Bankruptcy Court made no material error in ruling on the admissibility of evidence, and there was no error in the conclusion that the trustee failed to prove that Teltronics was insolvent at the time of the transfer. In this case, having accepted that the value of the assets listed on the balance sheet, as presented by an expert who testified for the trustee, was incomplete without the inclusion of the value of the three maintenance contracts, the burden was on the trustee to prove that the value of those contracts was so small as to leave the expert's opinion as to insolvency unaffected. The trustee offered no such evidence. Therefore, the court did not reach the lower courts' decisions and dismissed the cross-appeals as moot. View "O'Halloran v. Harris Corp." on Justia Law

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The doctrine of equitable mootness, which permits courts sitting in bankruptcy appeals to dismiss challenges when effective relief would be impossible, applies in the Chapter 9 context. The Eleventh Circuit held that it would be appropriate to note federalism concerns when deciding whether the doctrine should bar an appeal in a particular bankruptcy case. In this case, equitable mootness barred the ratepayers' appeal because they have never asked any court to stay the implementation of the plan that the bankruptcy court confirmed and thus no court has ever stayed the implementation of the plan. Furthermore, the County and others have taken significant and largely irreversible steps in reliance on the unstayed plan confirmed by the bankruptcy court. Finally, after considering notions of fairness by looking at the merits and the public interest, the court held that dismissing the ratepayers' appeal was appropriate. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's order and remanded for dismissal of the ratepayers' appeal from the plan confirmed by the bankruptcy court. View "Bennett v. Jefferson County" on Justia Law