Articles Posted in Bankruptcy Caselaw

In most bankruptcy cases, creditors will submit proofs of claims. If parties object to such proofs, the courts will typically assess whether the objections are valid and, in some instances, may reduce a creditor’s claim. This was illustrated recently in a ruling issued in a California bankruptcy case in which the court reduced a claim by almost $30 million due to a finding that the debtor was not unjustly enriched in that amount as the creditor claimed. If you have questions about proofs of claims or unjust enrichment in a bankruptcy case, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted California bankruptcy lawyer.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the debtor filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in 2016. The creditor filed four proofs of claim, one of which totaled close to $50 million. Other claimants moved to reduce the claim, and following a series of hearings, the court granted the motion, reducing the claim by close to $30 million on the grounds that the debtor was not unjustly enriched by that amount as claimed by the creditor. The creditor appealed, arguing that the bankruptcy court improperly applied the facts.

Unjust Enrichment and Proofs of Claims

The appellate court declined to adopt the creditor’s reasoning and affirmed the bankruptcy court’s ruling. The court explained that, under California law, if one party is unjustly enriched or receives a benefit at another party’s expense, they must make restitution. It noted, however, that simply because one person obtains benefits from another does not necessarily mean that restitution is required. Specifically, restitution is only necessary when the circumstances dictate that it would be unjust for the party to retain the benefit.

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In bankruptcy cases, creditors have the right to file appeals. If the court finds that they failed to adequately preserve their rights, though, it may dismiss the appeal as equitably moot. Specifically, if a creditor neglected to seek a stay of bankruptcy proceedings before filing an appeal, their appeal will most likely be dismissed. The grounds for dismissal due to equitable mootness were the topic of a recent ruling issued in a California bankruptcy case. If you have questions or concerns regarding creditor and debtor rights in bankruptcy proceedings, it is advisable to speak to a knowledgeable California bankruptcy lawyer as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that a number of creditors filed an appeal in a bankruptcy case. The district court dismissed their appeal as equitably moot. They subsequently filed an appeal from the dismissal of their appeal. After reviewing the evidence of record, the court of appeals found that the district court properly dismissed the underlying appeal as moot. Thus, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Equitable Mootness in Bankruptcy Proceedings

The appellate courts will weigh four factors in assessing whether a bankruptcy appeal is moot. Specifically, the courts will look at whether the appealing party sought and received a stay, whether the plan in question has been substantially consummated, what impact, if any, a remedy could have on innocent third parties, and whether the bankruptcy court could devise equitable relief without totally undermining the plan.

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Under California law, it is well-established that parties only get “one bite of the apple.” In other words, they only have one chance to assert a claim, and if they receive an unfavorable verdict, they cannot attempt to relitigate the claim before another court. This was demonstrated in a recent bankruptcy ruling, in which the court affirmed the dismissal of a debtor’s adversary proceeding. If you are interested in seeking debt relief, it is in your best interest to contact a trusted California bankruptcy lawyer to evaluate your options.

The Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the debtor filed a pro se adversary proceeding against the defendant. The details regarding her filing were not reported by the court. Regardless, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the claims asserted had previously been litigated. The bankruptcy court granted the motion and dismissed the debtor’s proceeding. She appealed, and the bankruptcy appellate panel affirmed the bankruptcy court’s decision. The debtor then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed the bankruptcy appellate panel’s decision.

The Law of the Case

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals explained that it reviewed bankruptcy appellate panel decisions de novo and applied the same standard of review that the panel applied to the bankruptcy court’s opinion. In doing so, the Court of Appeals ultimately determined that the bankruptcy court and panel ruled correctly. Continue reading

Bankruptcy proceedings have allowed millions of parties to escape overwhelming debts, regain financial stability, and move forward with their lives. While a broad array of people are eligible for bankruptcy relief, there are certain rules and guidelines that people filing bankruptcy petitions must adhere to, and if they do not, they may face significant penalties. For example, in a recent California bankruptcy matter, an appellate court upheld the bankruptcy court’s imposition of sanctions against a petitioner due to a finding that he acted in bad faith. If you struggle to pay your bills, you may be eligible for debt relief, and it is smart to consult a knowledgeable California bankruptcy lawyer to evaluate your options.

The Facts of the Case

The facts of the subject case are sparse. It is reported, though, that the claimant filed a pro se bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy court ultimately determined that the claimant was motivated by an improper purpose and acted in bad faith when he filed his petition. As such, it imposed sanctions on him pursuant to Bankruptcy Rule 9011. The claimant then appealed, and the bankruptcy court’s decision was affirmed by the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. Thus, he appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Sanctions Imposed in Bankruptcy Actions

The Court of Appeals declined to rule in favor of the claimant but affirmed the bankruptcy court’s decision. The Court explained that it reviewed the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel’s decisions de novo, and further, that it applied the same standard of review that the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel applied to the bankruptcy court’s decision. Continue reading

It is not uncommon for a creditor to assign a debt or the right to collect money owed from a debtor to another party. In such instances, the assignee enjoys the same rights and privileges as the creditor did prior to assigning the debt. Thus, if a creditor’s debt was deemed non-dischargeable, it will likely remain so after it is assigned under the doctrine of issue preclusion. A California court recently explained issue preclusion in a case in which it affirmed the bankruptcy court’s ruling that the debt in question was non-dischargeable. If you wish to pursue legal relief from your debts, you should meet with a knowledgeable California bankruptcy lawyer to discuss your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff filed a bankruptcy action. During the course of proceedings, the bankruptcy court deemed a debt owed to the defendant non-dischargeable on the basis of issue preclusion. The debt was assigned to the defendant by the plaintiff’s former employer and represented a judgment in state court for punitive and compensatory damages. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the court incorrectly applied issue preclusion to the judgment. The bankruptcy appellate panel affirmed the lower court’s ruling, and the plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeals.

Issue Preclusion in Bankruptcy Matters

The doctrine of issue preclusion applies to matters in which a party seeks exceptions from discharge pursuant to the bankruptcy code. Issue preclusion, which is also referred to as collateral estoppel, bars a party from re-litigating factual issues that have been determined in a prior action. Pursuant to the full faith and credit act, the preclusive effect of a state court ruling in a subsequent bankruptcy matter is determined by the laws regarding preclusion in the state in which the judgment was granted. Continue reading

In many bankruptcy cases, there are insufficient funds to fulfill the debtor’s obligations. Thus, the creditors may enter into a stipulation regarding how any available money should be distributed. Such stipulations do not necessarily mean that a creditor cannot pursue any other claims against a debtor, however. The implication of a stipulation entered into by a creditor in a bankruptcy action on future claims was the topic of an opinion recently issued by a California court, in a case in which the debtor argued the IRS was barred from recovering taxes from the debtor. If you are unable to pay your debts, you could be eligible to file for bankruptcy, and you should meet with a trusted California bankruptcy attorney as soon as possible.

The Stipulation

It is reported that the plaintiff filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding in May 2013 and received a discharge two years later. In March 2018, the IRS filed an amended proof of claim for unpaid taxes the plaintiff owed for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011. The franchise tax board (FTB) filed a proof of claim as well. The bankruptcy estate did not have enough funds to pay the IRS and FTB, and so they entered into a stipulation with the bankruptcy trustee regarding the division of the funds that were available.

Allegedly, the stipulation was approved by the bankruptcy court, and funds were distributed to the parties. The IRS then advised the plaintiff that he owed close to $500,000 for the 2009 tax year. The plaintiff filed an action with the bankruptcy court, arguing that the stipulation barred the IRS from recovering any additional funds from him for the 2009 tax year, and filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. The bankruptcy court denied the motion, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue reading

One of the many benefits of bankruptcy is that it stays parties from litigating claims against the debtor. The stay is not limited to actions involving creditors attempting to recover debts but also precludes any claim that may result in a judgment against the debtor. Notably, though, the stay only applies to causes of action that arise prior to the filing of a bankruptcy petition and does not bar post-petition proceedings. Recently, a California court issued an opinion discussing how courts determine when a cause of action accrues in a matter in which the debtor sought to vacate a judgment obtained by his landlord. If you can no longer manage your debts, you may be able to seek relief via bankruptcy, and it is in your best interest to speak to a knowledgeable California bankruptcy attorney regarding your options.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that in 1986, the debtor entered into a residential lease for an apartment. From 2005 through 2015, the apartment was owned by the landlord. The lease agreement permitted the debtor to approve or reject any improvements or repairs to the apartment. The debtor repeatedly exercised this option, which ultimately led to the landlord filing a lawsuit for declaratory relief against the debtor.

Allegedly, one year prior to the landlord’s lawsuit, the debtor had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. He did not notify the landlord of the proceedings or seek a stay of the landlord’s claim, however, but merely requested that he wait until after the bankruptcy case had closed to seek any judgment. The debtor then filed a contempt action against the landlord for continuing to litigate the action for declaratory relief after learning of the bankruptcy matter. The court granted the request to hold the declaratory relief judgment void, but the debtor nonetheless appealed, arguing it should be vacated. Continue reading

When a party files for bankruptcy, the party’s property and assets will typically be transferred to the bankruptcy estate. This includes not only tangible assets, like personal property, but also potential sources of recovery, like litigation claims. Recently, a California court discussed sales of litigation claims in the context of bankruptcy, in a matter in which the debtor filed an appeal challenging the validity of the sale of her claims. If you are overwhelmed by debts, you may be eligible to file for bankruptcy, and it is advisable to meet with a trusted California bankruptcy attorney to determine your rights.

The Debtor’s Claims

It is reported that the debtor filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. During the course of proceedings, the bankruptcy court approved the sale of her litigation claims pursuant to 11 U.S.C. section 363. The debtor then filed an appeal, challenging the validity of the sale. The Chapter 7 trustee assigned to the case argued that the sale was permitted, or alternatively, that the debtor’s appeal was moot. Upon review, the court agreed with the trustee’s latter assessment, dismissing the appeal as moot.

Appealing the Sale of Litigation Claims in Bankruptcy

Under the applicable case law, if a bankruptcy court applies section 363 for the sale of claims in accordance with a settlement agreement, all parties must comply with the requirement imposed by section 363 regarding seeking a stay. In cases in which a sale is not stayed pending appeal, as long as the sale was made in good faith and cannot be set aside under state law and is not otherwise subject to a right of redemption provided by a statute, the appeal will be deemed moot. Continue reading

In many marriages, couples jointly own real estate. While couples may not consider the nature of the title of a property, in the context of bankruptcy, how a jointly owned property is characterized is a critical consideration for determining whether it will become part of the bankruptcy estate. The factors weighed in determining whether an asset is community property or is held in a joint tenancy was recently discussed by a California bankruptcy case in which the court disputed how two marital properties should be categorized. If you are married and wish to seek debt relief via bankruptcy, it is prudent to speak with a seasoned California bankruptcy attorney to discuss how the property you own with your spouse may be impacted.

Background of the Case

Allegedly, the debtor, who was married, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Prior to filing the petition, the debtor transferred properties he owned with his wife to a trust. A trustee filed an adversary proceeding, asking the court to avoid the transfer because it was a fraudulent conveyance. The court ruled in favor of the trustee and ruled that the entirety of both properties could be recovered for the bankruptcy estate, rather than just the debtor’s halves. The debtor then appealed, but the lower court ruling was affirmed. The debtor then appealed again.

Characterization of Marital Property in Bankruptcy

Under California law, if a debtor owns a property in a joint tenancy, only the debtor’s interest will become the property of the bankruptcy estate. Further, the bankruptcy code allows a trustee in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to sell a jointly owned property and divide the proceeds between the non-debtor owners and the bankruptcy estate. If a property is considered community property, however, the entire property will become an asset of a bankruptcy estate. In such instances, the trustee can sell the property and distribute the entirety of the proceeds among the debtor’s creditors.

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Not all bankruptcy petitions that are filed are granted. Instead, in some cases, the court will deny a petition or dismiss a case. Fortunately, however, the law allows for appeals, and in many instances, a petitioner can persuade a court to reverse its ruling and allow a bankruptcy action to proceed. In a recent California bankruptcy case, a court discussed the process of reopening a bankruptcy proceeding, highlighting the importance of following the proper procedure.  If you live in California and wish to seek relief from your debts, you should speak to a trusted California bankruptcy attorney regarding your options.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the petitioner filed a motion to reopen his bankruptcy case, which was filed in 2010. The bankruptcy court denied his motion, and he appealed. He had difficulties complying with the deadlines set forth under the scheduling order for the appellate process, and the bankruptcy court’s decision was affirmed without consideration of the petitioner’s brief. He then filed a motion to reinstate his appeal so that the court could consider his brief. The court granted his motion to reinstate the appeal but, upon reviewing the materials submitted by the petitioner, the court nonetheless denied his appeal.

Reopening a Bankruptcy Case

A bankruptcy court’s denial of a motion to reopen a bankruptcy case will be reviewed by an appellate court for abuse of discretion. In assessing whether an abuse of discretion has occurred, the appellate court will conduct a two-part inquiry. First, it will review whether the bankruptcy court applied the proper legal rule to the question presented. If so, the appellate court will then consider whether the bankruptcy court applied the legal standard in a manner that is illogical, implausible, or without support, based on inferences that can be drawn from the facts of record. Continue reading

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