Businesses grappling with debts they are unable to pay can often seek relief via bankruptcy. The United States Bankruptcy Code sets forth the requirements and relief available for debtors under various chapters. Many businesses choose to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy actions, as it allows them to maintain operations and assets. In some instances, though, the court will convert a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case to a Chapter 7 case despite the debtor’s protests. In a recent California opinion issued in a bankruptcy matter, the court discussed the grounds for entering and vacating a conversion order. If you need assistance seeking bankruptcy relief, it is advisable to speak with a California bankruptcy lawyer as soon as you can.

Procedural History of the Case and Factual Setting

It is alleged that the debtor filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy action. The bankruptcy court subsequently entered a Conversion Order, which converted the case from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 bankruptcy. At the hearing on the matter, the debtor contends that it was not provided with sufficient notice of the hearing on the motion to convert and that it was not timely served with notice of the motion.

People saddled with unbearable debts are often able to take advantage of the United States bankruptcy laws and seek relief by filing a petition for bankruptcy. If they do, however, they must be cognizant of any procedural rules; otherwise, their bankruptcy petitions may be dismissed. For example, the Bankruptcy Code provides, among other things, that people cannot seek simultaneous relief for the same debt in different courts by filing multiple bankruptcy petitions. This principle was highlighted in a recent ruling issued by a California court in a bankruptcy case, in which the court ultimately affirmed the dismissal of the debtor’s bankruptcy petition filed in California court. If you have substantial debt and you have questions about what relief may be available, it is in your best interest to contact a California bankruptcy lawyer to discuss your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the debtor initiated a voluntary Chapter 11 petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in June 2023. Five days later,  the Bankruptcy court issued an order dismissing the case on the grounds that the debtor had another bankruptcy action pending in Oregon. The debtor then appealed.

Grounds for Dismissing Bankruptcy Cases

On appeal, the court considered the Supreme Court ruling in Freshman v. Atkins, which established that a debtor cannot have concurrent bankruptcy cases involving the same debts. The court cited precedent supporting this principle, emphasizing that only one bankruptcy case may be pending for a debtor at a given time. Consequently, the court found that the Bankruptcy court properly dismissed the case because the debtor already had an open Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon.

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The filing of a bankruptcy action triggers an automatic stay in litigation against the debtor, which, in many instances, helps them protect their assets. If a bankruptcy action is dismissed, the stay will be lifted, though, leaving property vulnerable to credits. A debtor can argue that an action was dismissed in error, but they must do so in a timely manner; otherwise, they may waive their right appeal, as demonstrated in a recent California bankruptcy case. If you have unmanageable debts and are interested in learning more about what relief you may be able to obtain by filing for bankruptcy, it is prudent to speak to a California bankruptcy lawyer as soon as possible.

Case Setting

It is reported that the plaintiff deemed a vexatious litigant, filed multiple bankruptcy cases between 2011 and 2020. The focal point of the cases was a property co-owned by the plaintiff’s business partner. The defendant held a deed of trust on the property. Fractional interests in the property were granted to the plaintiff and his wife, who then participated in the aforementioned filing scheme to trigger the automatic stay and prevent foreclosure.

Allegedly, despite an in rem order favoring the defendant until July 2021, the plaintiff’s Chapter 11 case was dismissed in February 2021. Subsequently, the defendant foreclosed on the property, obtained an unlawful detainer judgment, and evicted the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed an adversary complaint alleging a violation of the automatic stay and fraudulent transfer, seeking damages and a restraining order. The bankruptcy court issued an order to show cause and later dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, citing insufficient service, lack of jurisdiction, and untimeliness. The plaintiff moved to vacate the dismissal order under Civil Rule 60(b), asserting hospitalization during the order to show cause hearing. The court denied the motion, prompting the plaintiff’s appeal.

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In bankruptcy actions, trustees will often manage the estate, which may include selling any assets that can be liquidated. The bankruptcy courts will generally approve such sales, as long as they comply with the procedural requirements, as illustrated in a recent California ruling. If you have would like to hear more about whether you may be eligible for bankruptcy relief, it is wise to contact a California bankruptcy attorney.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the debtor’s husband and debtor wife, who were legally separated, filed separate petitions in September 2021, during their legal separation. Their bankruptcy cases were then consolidated. The trustee, who oversaw the consolidated bankruptcy estates, moved for the approval of two settlement and sale agreements. “Agreement A” encompassed the sale of a single business entity that was owned by the debtor husband and the settlement of three related legal matters the debtor husband, formerly legal counsel for the creditor, had been involved in.  The trustee advocated for the approval of the settlement and sale, contending that they were in the estate’s best interest. The debtor husband objected to Agreement A however. The bankruptcy court ultimately approved the agreement, and debtor husband appealed.

Approval of Sales and Settlements in Bankruptcy Actions

On appeal, the court evaluated the bankruptcy court’s approval of Agreement A, encompassing both a sale and a compromise, under § 363 and Rule 9019. To approve a § 363(b)(1) sale, the trustee must establish a sound business purpose, fair sale price, proper notice to creditors, and good-faith negotiation. Rule 9019(a) allows the court to approve compromises or settlements, considering factors such as the probability of success, collection difficulties, litigation complexity, and creditor interests. The court may make general findings supporting the settlement if the record indicates favorability. The trustee bore the burden of proving these elements.

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In bankruptcy actions, there is an automatic stay preventing parties from pursuing any claims against the debtor. If a person violates the automatic stay, the debtor may be able to pursue an adversary complaint against the person. Such complaints must be adequately specific, however, otherwise, they will most likely be dismissed, as illustrated in a recent California bankruptcy case. If you have questions about whether bankruptcy is right for you, it is advisable to contact a California bankruptcy lawyer as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that in 2017, the debtor filed a suit against her neighbors regarding a property line dispute, which was later dismissed. In 2019, she filed a second suit, adding additional defendants. After several legal actions in both federal and state courts, the debtor filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on the eve of a libel action filed against her by one of the defendants. The debtor did not inform the state court of her bankruptcy during the proceedings.

Reportedly, the debtor later filed an adversary complaint in the bankruptcy court, asserting various claims, including willful violations of the automatic stay, fraud, RICO violations, and quiet title. The bankruptcy court denied the debtor’s motion for contempt against the neighbor, and subsequently, Appellees filed a motion to dismiss the adversary complaint with prejudice, arguing insufficiency of factual allegations. The court granted the motion, stating that the debtor failed to state a claim and that any amendment would be futile. The debtor appealed.

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In bankruptcy cases, it is not uncommon for the debtor and the trustee to propose a compromise to the bankruptcy court. The court will generally review a proposed compromise to determine if it is fair and equitable, in consideration of numerous factors, as discussed in a recent California case. If you need assistance with a bankruptcy matter, it is in your best interest to consult a California bankruptcy lawyer.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the bankruptcy court considered a proposed compromise between the debtor and the Chapter 7 trustee of a medical institute. The terms of the proposed compromise included the debtor subordinating his $1.35 million proof of claim in the medical institute’s bankruptcy to the allowed claims of all non-insiders.

Reportedly, his company would purchase the medical institute’s rights to pursue certain claims against two creditors for $200,000 in cash and a share of the potential net recovery on those claims. In return, the trustee agreed to settle all of the medical institute’s claims against the debtor and two of the debtor’s companies and withdraw the medical institute’s claim in the debtor’s bankruptcy with prejudice.

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In Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases, trustees are typically entitled to receive compensation for their services, which is subject to approval by the bankruptcy court. These fees can vary but are typically determined based on the complexity of the case and the extent of the trustee’s responsibilities. To ensure fairness and transparency, the Bankruptcy Code sets certain guidelines and fee caps to prevent excessive compensation. If a party involved in the case feels the fees are excessive, however, they can object. Their objection will only be considered if they have standing, however, as demonstrated in a recent California case.  If you cannot pay your debts and are considering filing for bankruptcy, it is smart to talk to a California bankruptcy lawyer.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the debtor, a renowned Los Angeles restaurant chain known for its historic menu and celebrity endorsements, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2016 when faced with a $3.2 million judgment in a racial discrimination lawsuit. A committee of unsecured creditors, chaired by the Creditor, was appointed to oversee ECF’s activities. The bankruptcy court later appointed the Trustee for ECF. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan was approved, guaranteeing full payment to creditors, including the Creditor, with interest secured by ECF’s assets and contributions from its founder.

Allegedly, the Trustee filed a final fee application seeking the maximum allowable fee in excess of $1 million under the Bankruptcy Code’s fee cap. This amount included the lodestar plus a 65% enhancement for exceptional services. The Creditor objected to this fee request. The bankruptcy court awarded the trustee the statutory maximum fees, which the Creditor appealed. The district court upheld the bankruptcy court’s decision, and the Creditor appealed again.

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Generally, the bankruptcy courts have jurisdiction over bankruptcy matters and claims arising in bankruptcy actions. Certain bankruptcy-related actions and claims filed in bankruptcy courts are better handled by other courts, however; as such, in some instances, a bankruptcy court will refer a matter to a state or federal court. If a bankruptcy court refers a case to another court, the plaintiff has the option of moving to withdraw the reference, but proving the such motions should be granted can be challenging, as demonstrated in a recent California case. If you struggle to pay your debts and wonder if filing for bankruptcy is right for you, it is wise to talk to a California bankruptcy lawyer at your earliest opportunity.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions in bankruptcy court against the defendants, including claims under federal non-bankruptcy statutes. The bankruptcy court automatically referred the case to the district court. The plaintiff moved to withdraw the reference, seeking both mandatory and permissive withdrawal to have the district court decide the sanctions motion.

Reference of Claims in Bankruptcy Matters

The district court denied the motion to withdraw the reference. In doing so, it explained that the mandatory withdrawal provision should be interpreted narrowly rather than as an escape hatch allowing most bankruptcy matters to be removed to the district court. Withdrawal is only required when materially considering non-bankruptcy federal law. Courts have found withdrawal mandatory when non- bankruptcy issues necessitate interpreting, not just applying, non-bankruptcy law or undertaking analysis of major unsettled non-bankruptcy law questions. Under this approach, the party seeking withdrawal must show more than the possibility novel non-bankruptcy law issues could arise in the bankruptcy case.

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Bankruptcy courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; generally, they only handle bankruptcy matters. While they can exercise jurisdiction over other claims, their authority is limited to claims that are related to or arise under or in bankruptcy. Thus, if a party attempts to bring a claim before a bankruptcy court and the court lacks jurisdiction, the claim will be dismissed, as demonstrated in a recent California case. If you have questions about what relief is available via bankruptcy, it is wise to talk to a California bankruptcy lawyer at your earliest opportunity.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that in May 2016, the debtor filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Almost a year later, the Bankruptcy Court converted the case to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Subsequently, the Bankruptcy Court approved the sale of most of the debtor’s assets to a second party for $78,000, along with a settlement and mutual releases. Before the asset sale, a third party raised various challenges to the sale and initiated an adversary proceeding against the second party in July 2020.

It is alleged that in July 2020, the third party began the adversary case. However, in December 2021, a bankruptcy judge ruled that even though the third party might have potential claims against the second party, the court lacked jurisdiction over the claims. The judge clarified that the claims did not fall under the categories of “arising under,” “arising in,” or “related to” the Bankruptcy Code. Consequently, the judge denied the third party’s request to amend the complaint and dismissed the adversary case due to lack of jurisdiction. The third party appealed.

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People seeking debt relief via bankruptcy actions must file legal pleadings with the court and verify that the information contained in those pleadings is accurate. If they take a certain position in a bankruptcy action, they cannot, at a later date, take a contrary position to suit their changed needs. This tenet, known as the doctrine of estoppel, was explained in a recent California bankruptcy action where a debtor who originally asserted he was an employee of a company later attempted to argue he was a sole proprietor in an adversary proceeding. If you are interested in learning how you may benefit from filing for bankruptcy, it is smart to meet with a California bankruptcy lawyer as soon as possible.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the debtor filed an adversary proceeding against the defendant, asking the court to reinstate an office lease and grant him damages for the defendant’s violation of the automatic stay, after the defendant took possession of property rented by a business. The defendant moved for judgment in its favor on the grounds of estoppel. The court, finding inconsistencies between the debtor’s bankruptcy filings and the allegations in his adversary complaint regarding the lease and other business-related property, granted the motion. The debtor appealed.

Estoppel in Bankruptcy Cases

On appeal, the court upheld the lower court ruling. The court explained that judicial estoppel prevents a debtor from asserting a claim in the current proceeding that is inconsistent with a claim they made in a previous proceeding. In the subject case, the position the debtor asserted in his adversary proceeding regarding ownership and operation of a business and its assets were clearly inconsistent with his bankruptcy schedules, amendments, and Chapter 13 plan.

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