Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy
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After debtors filed for bankruptcy relief, the Bankruptcy Administrator, Marjorie Lynch, moved to dismiss the case as an abuse because debtors used the National and Local Standard amounts for certain categories of expenses rather than the actual amount of their expenses, which were less than the standardized amounts. The bankruptcy court denied the motion to dismiss. The court granted the appeal as to the issue of whether 11 U.S.C. 707(b)(2) permits a debtor to take the full National and Local Standard amounts for expenses even though the debtor incurs actual expenses that are less than the standard amounts. The court concluded that debtors are entitled to the full National and Local Standard amount for a category of expenses if they incur an expense in that category. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the bankruptcy court. View "Lynch v. Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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After Kimberly Adkins and Chaille Dubois filed separate Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions in the Bankruptcy Court, Atlas filed proofs of claim in their bankruptcy cases based on debts that were barred by Maryland’s statute of limitations. At issue is whether Atlas violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq., by filing proofs of claim based on time-barred debts. The court held that Atlas’s conduct does not violate the FDCPA because filing a proof of claim in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy based on a debt that is time-barred does not violate the FDCPA when the statute of limitations does not extinguish the debt. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Dubois v. Atlas Acquisitions LLC" on Justia Law

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Debtors purchased a home from creditors. The purchase was financed via a loan from creditors. In exchange for the loan, debtors granted creditors a deed of trust on the property and executed a promissory note requiring monthly payments. Where the rate of interest on debtors’ residential mortgage loan was increased upon default, at issue was whether a “cure” under section 1322(b) of the Bankruptcy Code allows their bankruptcy plan to bring post-petition payments back down to the initial rate of interest. The court held that the statute does not allow this, as a change to the interest rate on a residential mortgage loan is a “modification” barred by the terms of section 1322(b)(2). The court affirmed the judgment of the district court insofar as it required that post-petition interest payments be calculated using the seven percent default rate of interest, but reversed that part of the judgment which applied only a five percent rate of interest to payments calculated “for the period between September 16, 2013 and the December 2013, effective date of the plan.” The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Anderson v. Hancock" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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PHA filed suit against Wells Fargo, alleging that Wells Fargo falsely represented that it would forbear collection of the principal balance of a line of credit, ultimately causing PHA to default and enter bankruptcy. PHA subsequently filed suit in Virginia state court, which Wells Fargo removed to federal court. Along with repeating the claims made in the bankruptcy adversary complaint, PHA alleged new theories of lender liability. The district court dismissed the suit. The court rejected PHA's contention that the district court erroneously gave res judicata effect to various sale orders issued during PHA’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, concluding that the elements of res judicata are satisfied. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Providence Hall Assoc. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Stubbs is owed approximately $200,000 in legal fees from representing debtor in bankruptcy proceedings. Debtor is subject to nearly $1 million in secured tax claims, and the estate has insufficient funds to pay both Stubbs’ fees and the tax claim. At issue is which of these claims takes priority in a Chapter 7 liquidation under the Bankruptcy Code. Under the version of section 724(b)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 724(b)(2), in effect when the bankruptcy court rendered its decision, the court concluded that it is clear that debtor is not entitled to subordinate the IRS’s secured tax claim in favor of its unsecured claim to Chapter 11 administrative expenses. The court need not reach the issue of whether the same result would have been obtained under the pre-Bankruptcy Technical Corrections Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-327, 124 Stat. 3557, version of section 724(b)(2). Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Angell v. Stubbs & Perdue, P.A." on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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Debtor filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. Thereafter, the Trustee and the Bankruptcy Administrator (collectively, the Trustee) filed a complaint objecting to Debtor’s discharge in bankruptcy. Debtor responded by asserting that the Trustee’s complaint was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The bankruptcy court granted the Trustee’s motion for summary judgment and entered an order denying Debtor a discharge. The district court affirmed, concluding that the Trustee’s complaint was timely. The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that the bankruptcy court erred in finding that Trustee’s complaint was timely filed. Remanded. View "Jenkins v. Ward" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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Oteria Moses borrowed $1,000 under a loan agreement that was illegal under North Carolina law. When Moses filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, CashCall, Inc., the loan servicer, filed a proof of claim. Moses subsequently filed an adversary proceeding against CashCall seeking a declaration that the loan was illegal and also seeking money damages for CashCall’s allegedly illegal debt collection activities. CashCall filed a motion to compel arbitration. The bankruptcy court denied CashCall’s motion to compel arbitration and retained jurisdiction over both Moses’ first claim for declaratory relief and second claim for damages. On appeal, the district court affirmed. The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) did not err in affirming the bankruptcy court’s exercise of jurisdiction to retain in bankruptcy Moses’ first claim; but (2) erred in retaining in bankruptcy Moses’ claim for damages and denying CashCall’s motion to compel arbitration of that claim, as this claim was not constitutionally core. Remanded with instruction to grant CashCall’s motion to compel arbitration on Moses’ second claim for damages. View "Moses v. CashCall, Inc." on Justia Law

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Five individuals (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) each filed a petition for individual bankruptcy under Chapter 13 in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. LVNV Funding, LLC and its affiliated companies (collectively, “Defendants”) filed a proof of unsecured claim based on defaulted debts it had acquired against each plaintiff. Each Chapter 13 plan was approved. Defendants’ claims were allowed, and they received payments from the Chapter 13 trustees on these claims. Plaintiffs subsequently filed this putative class action lawsuit in the District of Maryland alleging that Defendants violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and various Maryland laws by filing proofs of claim without a Maryland debt collection license. The district court dismissed the action, concluding (1) the state common law claims were barred by res judicata, and (2) the federal and state statutory claims failed to state a claim. The Fourth Circuit affirmed but on res judicata grounds, holding (1) Plaintiffs’ claims were based on the same cause of action as Defendants’ claims in the confirmed bankruptcy plans and were thus barred by res judicata; and (2) Plaintiffs’ statutory claims were subject to the normal principles of res judicata and were thus precluded by the confirmation of the Chapter 13 plans. View "Covert v. LVNV Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

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The trustee of Firstpay's bankruptcy estate sought a judgment against the United States for an amount of payroll tax payments the firm made on behalf of its employer-clients to the IRS. At issue on appeal was whether the trustee may reclaim as property of Firstpay the approximately $28 million transferred by the firm to the IRS during the 90 days preceding the filing of the bankruptcy petition. The court agreed with the bankruptcy court and the district court that, as a matter of law, Firstpay lacked an equitable interest in the funds paid over to the IRS. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Wolff v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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CSS, the debtor, filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in 2012. Acting as general contractor or as a first tier subcontractor, CSS placed orders with Subcontractors, the creditor. The court held that construction subcontractors entitled to a lien on funds under North Carolina law had an interest in property when the debtor contractor filed for bankruptcy, by which time the subcontractors had not yet served notice of, and thereby perfected, their liens. Because there is no dispute that the other criteria of the applicable bankruptcy stay exception have been met, the court held that the bankruptcy court and district court correctly allowed Subcontractors to serve notice of, and thereby perfect, their liens post-petition.View "Construction Supervision Svcs v. Branch Banking & Trust" on Justia Law