Posted by NCBRC - December 20th, 2014
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted America’s Servicing Company’s petition for rehearing en banc in In re Schwartz-Tallard, No. 12-60052 (Petition granted, Dec. 19, 2014). The case arose out of the debtor’s motion for attorney fees relating to ASC’s appeal of a finding that it had violated the automatic stay. The Ninth Circuit found that the debtor’s attorney fees were actual damages under section 362(k)(1). In re Schwartz-Tallard, 765 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. August 29, 2014), aff’g, In re Schwartz-Tallard, 473 B.R. 340 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. 2012). The court distinguished Sternberg v. Johnston, 595 F.3d 937 (9th Cir. 2010), which held that a debtor’s attorneys’ fees for work on an adversary proceeding seeking damages for a stay violation were not actual damages and thus were not recoverable under 11 U.S.C. § 362(k)(1). In this case, ASC’s appeal challenged both the fee award and the substantive stay violation ruling, therefore, the debtor’s fees were incurred in defending both the damage award and the finding of stay violation.
Oral argument is scheduled for the week of March 16, 2015, though debtor’s counsel has asked for a new date.
Posted by NCBRC - December 19th, 2014
Based on a study using data drawn from two sources linking student survey responses to administrative records on cost and borrowing, a Brookings Institution report has concluded that “a significant share of undergraduate students do not understand how much they are paying for college or how much debt they are taking on.” The report indicated that 28% of college freshmen who have taken out federal student loans, do not think they have any federal debt, and 14% do not realize that they have any debt at all. Not only does a large percentage of students fail to grasp the extent or nature of their loans, but only a bare majority of college freshmen (52%) could estimate their actual costs of college within $5,000 accuracy. The report concludes: “It is possible, even likely, that this lack of knowledge will cause students to be surprised when their financial circumstances become apparent, perhaps when their first loan payment comes due. This surprise, or even fear, may impose an emotional burden on borrowers. More broadly, it may contribute to popular narratives about crushing student loan burdens, which are inconsistent with the reality that these burdens remain manageable for most borrowers (Akers and Chingos 2014).”
Posted by NCBRC - December 17th, 2014
Like a ray of sunshine through a storm of obfuscation and false compliance, the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York found that Wells Fargo’s administrative freeze on bankruptcy debtors’ accounts violates the automatic stay, and debtors injured by the violation have standing to seek damages. In re Weidenbenner, No. 14-35443, 2014 Bankr. LEXIS 5009 (Bankr. S.D. N.Y. Dec. 12, 2014). Read More
Posted by NCBRC - December 15th, 2014
Where foreclosure is commenced pre-petition, continuance of the state foreclosure process does not violate the automatic stay. Witkowski v. Knight (In re Witkowski), No. 14-34, __ B.R. __ (B.A.P. 1st Cir. Nov. 13, 2014). Read More
Posted by NCBRC - December 13th, 2014
The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Bullard v. Hyde Park Savings Bank, No. 14-116, and Viegelahn v. Harris (In re Harris), No. 14-400.
Bullard asks whether denial of confirmation is a final appealable order. The First Circuit Court of Appeals found that it was not. Bullard, No. 13-9009 (May 14, 2014) (disagreeing with Mort Ranta v. Gorman, 721 F.3d 241, 248 (4th Cir. 2013)).
Harris asks whether funds paid into a confirmed chapter 13 plan that are still in the trustee’s possession when the bankruptcy is converted to chapter 7 should be refunded to the debtor or paid to creditors. The Fifth Circuit found that the monies were properly distributed to creditors. Harris, No. 13-50374 (July 7, 2014) (disagreeing with In re Michael, 699 F.3d 305 (3rd Cir. 2012)).
Posted by NCBRC - December 11th, 2014
Finding the debtor to be “honest but unfortunate,” the bankruptcy court discharged her student loans so that she could “sleep at night without these unpayable debts continuing to hang over her head for the next 25 years.” Lamento v. U.S. Dept. of Educ. No. 14-1054 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio Oct. 31, 2014). Read More
Posted by NCBRC - December 9th, 2014
Technical abandonment of an estate asset may be revoked if the abandonment was caused by deception by the debtor or inadvertence or mistake on the part of the trustee. Miller v. Reaves (In re Miller), No. 13-1307 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. Dec. 5, 2014). Read More
Posted by NCBRC - December 5th, 2014
Speculation, begging the question, and the absence of countervailing evidence doomed the debtor’s defense to a motion for summary judgment on her student loan discharge action. Markwood v. U.S. Dept. of Educ. (In re Markwood), No. 13-1390, Adv. Proc. 14-4 (Bankr. N.D. W.Va. Oct. 31, 2014).
The court applied the three-part test developed in Brunner v. New York State Higher Educ. Servs. Corp., 831 F.2d 395, 396 (2nd Cir. 1987) (per curiam): “(1) that the debtor cannot maintain, based on current income and expenses, a “minimal” standard of living for herself and her dependents if forced to repay the loans; (2) that additional circumstances exist indicating that this state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period of the student loans; and (3) that the debtor has made good faith efforts to repay the loans.” The court found the debtor failed the first two prongs of this test. Read More
Posted by NCBRC - December 1st, 2014
In his paper, “Medical Debt as a Cause of Consumer Bankruptcy,” Daniel A. Austin reports on the results of a study suggesting that “medical bills are the single largest causal factor in consumer bankruptcy—but not to the degree found in the study cited by President Obama.” Read More
Posted by NCBRC - November 24th, 2014
In two nearly identical cases, the bankruptcy court granted the debtors’ attorney’s supplemental fee motions seeking compensation for work performed opposing proofs of claim for debts that were unenforceable due to the lapse of the state statute of limitations. In re Swilling, No. 13-12583 (Bankr. E.D. Tenn. Oct. 23, 2014), In re Alexander, No. 13-13462 (Bankr. E.D. Tenn. Oct. 22, 2014) (debtor’s attorney filed motions in five other cases based on similar factual scenarios).The court noted, however, that since the 2012 changes to Fed. Bankr. R. 3001(c), objections to those claims would now be deemed “routine.” Read More