Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy

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Before debtor and his wife received the purchase offer on their home, the couple executed and filed a Partition Agreement, which sought to recharacterize their home from community property to separate property, one half belonging to each spouse. Then debtor filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, claiming an exemption for his separate interest in the home under Texas law. Debtor's wife subsequently initiated an adversary proceeding seeking a declaratory judgment recognizing that the Partition Agreement gave her a one-half separate property interest in the net proceeds from the sale. The Trustee counterclaimed to avoid the Partition Agreement and for a declaration that the remaining proceeds from the sale were property of the estate. The bankruptcy court declared the Partition Agreement avoidable as a fraudulent transfer, leaving the amount of the net sale proceeds in excess of debtor's exemption to be nonexempt property of the estate, and determined that debtor's wife had no right or interest in the Homestead Net Sale Proceeds by virtue of the Partition Agreement. The court affirmed the bankruptcy court's judgment. In this case, the court explained that allowing the wife to sidestep the statutory limits for homestead exemptions and obtain approximately $500,000 in proceeds that otherwise are for creditors would lay waste to the provisions of the Bankruptcy Code involved here. View "Wiggains v. Reed" on Justia Law
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After the bankruptcy court enjoined Alfred Galaz from pursuing any claims related to Worldwide Subsidy Group (WSG) against his former daughter-in-law, Lisa Katona, Galaz appealed to the district court. The district court affirmed. The court concluded that Galaz’s suit in state court is arguably a violation of Katona’s discharge rights, directly implicating the bankruptcy court’s “arising under” jurisdiction; the bankruptcy court’s interpretation of the 2011 Settlement Agreement is determinative of Katona’s claim, and the bankruptcy court’s order was within its statutory authority; the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to abstain because the proceeding at issue is “core” under 28 U.S.C. 157(b); Galaz’s claims are barred by res judicata, compromise and settlement, and accord and satisfaction; the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in applying judicial estoppel; and the district court did not err in denying his motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Galaz v. Katona" on Justia Law
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Monaco appealed the district court's opinion holding that Monaco individually owes TAG $171,942.03, a nondischargeable debt under bankruptcy law, 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(4), arising from the Texas Construction Trust Fund Act (CTFA), Tex. Prop. Code Ann. 162.001. Section 162.031(b) of the CTFA holds that “[i]t is an affirmative defense to prosecution or other action . . . that the trust funds not paid to the beneficiaries of the trust were used by the trustee to pay the trustee's actual expenses directly related to the construction or repair of the improvement.” Monaco explains that $124,053.00 went to salaries and overhead and an additional $50,400.00 went to supervision of the project. The court concluded that Monaco could assert the affirmative defense for overhead costs of the project. Therefore, Monaco should not have been held liable for misapplication of construction trust funds under the CTFA and the debt claimed by TAG should have been discharged. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to discharge. View "Monaco v. TAG Investments, Ltd." on Justia Law
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This case involves several familial disputes stemming from an employment lawsuit, an alleged extramarital affair, the death of the family patriarch, and secret recordings. On appeal, debtor challenges the district court’s order affirming a bankruptcy court judgment that declared nondischargeable a Texas state court judgment against him. The court concluded that debtor's sanctionable state court conduct relates back to the conduct alleged in the original complaint; the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment on the issue of sanction orders based on collateral estoppel; the court rejected debtor's contention that the bankruptcy court erred in granting partial summary judgment on Appellees’ claims under 8 U.S.C. 523(a)(2) for fraud, finding no clear error in the district court's ruling and the bankruptcy court's account of the evidence; the bankruptcy court did not err in finding the defamation judgment nondischargeable under section 523(a)(6) for willful and malicious conduct; the bankruptcy court did not err in applying collateral estoppel to the jury's damages findings for both fraud and defamation; and the court dismissed debtor's claims as meritless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Scarbrough v. Purser" on Justia Law
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Debtors challenged the district court’s judgment that adopted in part the bankruptcy court’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court concluded that the district court need not sustain debtors’ objections merely because they are unopposed; it may overrule the objections if they lack merit, as the district court indeed found. In this case, the district court overruled debtors’ objection to the bankruptcy court’s proposed finding that they must have realized there was no equity in the Thoroughbred Property. Under the circumstances, the court could not say that the district court clearly erred in concluding that debtors knew or should have known, by the closing date, that defendants would receive no equity in the Thoroughbred Property. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's adoption of the bankruptcy court's finding. The court also concluded that debtors' claim that the district court erred in overruling their objection to the bankruptcy court’s proposed finding that defendants did not misrepresent to debtors that defendants expected to make their rental payments solely from the equity received through the sale of the Thoroughbred Property was both meritless and waived. The court rejected debtors' remaining claims and affirmed the judgment. View "Monge v. Rojas" on Justia Law
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The adversary action comprises the claims, counterclaims, and affirmative defenses between two sides of a business scheme to buy, renovate, and operate a Days Inn. This appeal stems from the district court’s order affirming a bankruptcy court judgment rendered after trial in the adversary action. Appellant and his brother formed the plan to buy the hotel, and appellees are the investors that the brothers convinced to buy a fifty-percent stake in the scheme and the company that the three investors formed to hold their membership interest. The court concluded that appellant's res judicata argument fails where the release claim at issue was filed in the original action while summary judgment was still interlocutory. Thus, the claim was properly preserved through the severance order for later adjudication, and res judicata does not bar it. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in affirming the bankruptcy court judgment that appellant breached the settlement agreement. Further, the district court properly affirmed the bankruptcy court's dismissal of appellant's breach-of-guaranty claim against the investors, but not as to the company. The court affirmed in part and vacated in part, remanding for additional proceedings, including a determination of what percentage of the attorney’s fees were attributable to the breach-of-contract claim. View "Pirani v. Baharia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a health care liability suit against defendants in federal court under the court’s bankruptcy jurisdiction. Section 74.351 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code requires plaintiffs in health care liability cases to serve an expert report within 120 days after the filing of a defendant’s original answer. Following limited discovery, defendants moved to dismiss because plaintiffs had failed to serve an expert report in accordance with section 74.351’s requirements. The district court ultimately dismissed the case with prejudice. The court held that section 74.351 answers the same question as Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26 and 37, and these Rules represent a valid exercise of Congress’ rulemaking authority. Accordingly, a federal court entertaining state law claims may not apply section 74.351. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Passmore v. Baylor Health Care" on Justia Law

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The Partnership and Beher (the Lenders) loaned Community $16 million. Defendant is Community's founder, president and CEO. Defendant signed the identical loan agreements on behalf of Community and as a personal guarantor. On appeal, defendant argued primarily that summary judgment on his guarantor liability was premature because, in the bankruptcy proceedings at issue, he and Community were challenging the extent and validity of the underlying obligations. The court concluded that defendant personally guaranteed the Lenders that he would satisfy the obligations represented by the promissory notes no matter what. In this case, the Lenders presented sufficient evidence to establish defendant's liability as guarantor and they met their burden to recover on the guaranties. Furthermore, defendant has failed to present sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment on the amount of his obligation under the guaranty contracts. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Edwards Family P'ship v. Dickson" on Justia Law
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Judgment Factor filed an adversary proceeding to prevent the entry of a Chapter 7 discharge order for defendant. The bankruptcy court granted summary judgment to defendant, holding that he did not act in any way that merited the denial of a discharge under 11 U.S.C. 727(a) and dismissing alter ego claims. The district court affirmed. The court concluded that Judgment Factors failed to obtain leave from the bankruptcy court to pursue alter ego and reverse veil piercing claims on behalf of the estate, so it may not pursue these claims. The court also concluded that Judgment Factors failed establish that defendant concealed or transferred any assets, destroyed or failed to keep financial records, or made any false oaths. Therefore, the court agreed with the lower courts that defendant did not act in any way meriting denial of a discharge under section 727(a). Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Judgment Factors, LLC v. Athol Packer" on Justia Law
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The Trustee filed suit against Knoll, seeking to avoid transfers from Tusa Office, the debtor, to Knoll, its creditor as preferences under section 547 of the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 547(b). The court concluded that, because the Trustee did not satisfy the source aspect of the El Paso Refinery analysis, testing under the hypothetical Chapter 7 liquidation analysis is unnecessary. The court held that the Trustee failed to establish the requirement of section 547(b)(5) because the source aspect of the El Paso Refinery analysis demonstrates that the transfer from Tusa Office to Knoll was made from the proceeds of Knoll’s own collateral. Further, the exception to avoidance under section 547(c)(5) is inapplicable in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Garner v. Knoll, Inc." on Justia Law
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