Articles Posted in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

There are key differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and which one is appropriate depends on a debtor’s unique circumstances. While debtors must pass a means test in order to pursue Chapter 7 bankruptcy, that does not mean that their decision to seek debt relief under that Chapter cannot be challenged by their creditors. Recently, a California ruling discussed what factors the courts consider when weighing whether to grant a creditor’s motion to convert a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to Chapter 11. If you have debts that you are unable to pay, you may be able to obtain relief through bankruptcy, and you should speak to a California bankruptcy lawyer about your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the debtor, who is a professional hockey player, filed a Chapter 7 petition for bankruptcy. One of his creditors subsequently filed a motion to convert his Chapter 7 case to Chapter 11 and asked the court to appoint a Chapter 11 trustee. The court noted that the creditors’ chances of recovering on their claims would be greatly improved if the case was transferred to Chapter 11, explaining that in Chapter 11, any income the debtor earns after filing the petition belongs to the estate, while in Chapter 7, the debtor retains any such income. The court nonetheless denied the creditor’s motion. The creditor subsequently appealed.

Factors Considered When Evaluating Whether to Convert a Chapter 7 Case to Chapter 11

The trial court’s decision was upheld on appeal. The court explained that section 706(b) of the Bankruptcy Code allows a court to convert a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case to Chapter 11 upon the request of a creditor, even if the debtor does not consent to the conversion. The court noted, though, that Section 706(b) does not offer any guidance as to what a court should or should not consider when evaluating whether to grant such a request.

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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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