Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Bankruptcy
In re: Kimberly Bruce
Defendants Citigroup Inc. and Citibank, N.A. (collectively, “Citi”) appealed from the bankruptcy court’s order granting in part and denying in part Citi’s motion, pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 7012, to dismiss Plaintiff’s amended complaint, or, alternatively, to strike or dismiss the nationwide class action allegations therein. On appeal, Citi advanced s two primary arguments. First, Citi argues that a bankruptcy court’s civil contempt power is limited to the enforcement of its own orders and, therefore, that the Bankruptcy Code does not authorize one bankruptcy court to adjudicate the claims of a nationwide class of former debtors seeking to hold Citi in contempt of discharge orders entered by other bankruptcy courts across the country. Second, Citi argues that Plaintiff’s claim for violation of her discharge order and injunction under 11 U.S.C. Section 524(a)(2) fails to satisfy the civil contempt standard under Taggart v. Lorenzen, 139 S. Ct. 1795 (2019).The Second Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the bankruptcy court’s order and remanded the case to the bankruptcy court. The court explained that the Bankruptcy Code does not authorize a bankruptcy court to enforce another bankruptcy court’s discharge injunction. Further, the court wrote that there is no Section 524 “affirmative act” deficiency here. An intentional and systematic refusal to update the credit report upon the debtor’s request constitutes “an act to collect” under Section 524(a)(2), where, objectively, it has the practical effect of improperly coercing the debtor into paying off a discharged debt. View "In re: Kimberly Bruce" on Justia Law
Sarnosky v. Chesapeake
On emerging from Chapter 11 reorganization effective February 9, 2021, Chesapeake Energy Corporation tested the limits of the bankruptcy court’s post-confirmation jurisdiction by asking it to settle two prebankruptcy purported class actions covering approximately 23,000 Pennsylvania oil and gas leases. The Fifth Circuit consolidated the Proof of Claim Lessors’ appeal from the preliminary approval order with the appeal from the final approval order. At issue is whether the bankruptcy and district courts had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Section 1334 to hear and decide these “class” claims. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded the bankruptcy and district court judgments with instructions to dismiss. The court explained that no proofs of claim were filed for class members, and every feature of the settlements conflicts with Chesapeake’s Plan and Disclosure Statement. Handling these forward-looking cases within the bankruptcy court, predicated on 28 U.S.C. Section 1334(a) or (b), rather than in the court where they originated, exceeds federal bankruptcy post-confirmation jurisdiction. View "Sarnosky v. Chesapeake" on Justia Law
Yanagi v. Bank of America
The Supreme Court answered two questions of law certified by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Hawai'i concerning a putative class action alleging wrongful foreclosure.Specifically, the Court answered (1) an action alleging a wrongful nonjudicial foreclosure of land court property that seeks only damages against the foreclosing lender is not barred by the entry of a transfer certificate of title to a buyer at a foreclosure sale; and (2) the pendency of a putative class action tolls the time during which a class member may commence an individual action, and the time for commencing an individual action is tolled until a clear denial of class certification. View "Yanagi v. Bank of America" on Justia Law
Oetting v. Sosne
The class representative of federal securities class actions appealed the dismissal of the unsecured creditor claim and amended claim he filed in the pending Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding of lead class counsel, Green Jacobson, P.C. The Eighth Circuit held that the claim for the cy pres distribution was no longer an issue because the distribution had been returned by the charity and deposited with the district court clerk for ultimate distribution for the benefit of the NationsBank class; the negligent supervision claim was time-barred; the disgorgement claim was not time-barred by Missouri's five year statute of limitations; and the bankruptcy court did not err in disallowing the bankruptcy claim as premature and lacking in supporting foundation. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Oetting v. Sosne" on Justia Law
In re: G-I Holdings, Inc.
Facing asbestos-related personal injury lawsuits filed in the 1980s, a group of producers of asbestos and asbestos-containing products formed the Center for Claims Resolution to administer such claims on behalf of its Members. About 20 Members negotiated and signed the Producer Agreement, which established and set forth the mechanics of the Center and the obligations of the Members. After G-I failed to pay its contractually-calculated share of personal injury settlements and Center expenses, U.S. Gypsum and Quigley were obligated to pay additional sums to cover G-I’s payment obligations. G-I filed for bankruptcy and the Center, U.S. Gypsum, and Quigley each filed a proof of claim, seeking to recover for G-I’s nonpayment under the Producer Agreement. The Center settled its claim with G-I. The Bankruptcy Court granted summary judgment in G-I’s favor. The district court affirmed. The Third Circuit vacated, holding that the Producer Agreement permits the Former Members to pursue a breach of contract action against G-I for its failure to pay contractually-obligated sums due to the Center, in light of their payment of G-I’s share. View "In re: G-I Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law
In re: W.R. Grace & Co.
Grace has manufactured and sold specialty chemicals and construction materials for more than 100 years. The company began facing asbestos-related lawsuits in the 1970s, based on several products and activities, including operation of a Montana vermiculite mine that released asbestos-containing dust into the atmosphere and sale of Zonolite Attic Insulation (ZAI). Montana and the Crown (Canada) have been sued for alleged failure to warn citizens of the risks posed by Grace’s products and activities. Montana settled its cases for $43 million in 2011. The Crown is a defendant in lawsuits arising from the use of ZAI. Montana and the Crown sought indemnification from Grace. Grace sought protection under the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 524(g), which allows a company to establish a trust to handle such liabilities. Montana and the Crown objected to confirmation of a Plan of Reorganization that will send all asbestos claims to two trusts, allowing protected parties to be “unconditionally, irrevocably and fully released.” The personal injury trust is funded by $ 1.5 billion from settlements with Grace’s insurers and former affiliates, an initial payment from Grace of $ 450 million, a warrant to acquire 10 million shares of Grace common stock at $ 17 per share, and annual cash payments from Grace of $100-110 million through 2033. The property damage trust is funded by an initial payment of 180 million dollars, and a subsequent payment of 30 million dollars. The two trusts have separate mechanisms for resolving claims. The bankruptcy court, the district court, and the Third Circuit confirmed the plan. View "In re: W.R. Grace & Co." on Justia Law
Teta v. TWL Corp., et al
Appellant, a former TWL employee, commenced a class action adversary proceeding within TWL's bankruptcy suit, alleging violations of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. 2101-2109. The district court affirmed the bankruptcy court's order denying appellant's related motion for class certification and dismissed the adversary proceeding. Because the reasons for the bankruptcy court's order were unclear, the court vacated in toto the orders and remanded to the district court to remand to the bankruptcy court for reconsideration. The court expressed no view as to the outcome the bankruptcy court should reach on remand in reconsidering appellant's motion for reclassification and the Trustee's motion to dismiss the adversary proceeding. View "Teta v. TWL Corp., et al" on Justia Law
Rodriguez, et al v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc.
Countrywide appealed a class certification order of the bankruptcy court. Plaintiffs are former chapter 13 debtors with mortgages serviced by Countrywide. Plaintiffs claimed, among other things, that the fees Countrywide charged while plaintiffs' bankruptcy cases were still pending were unreasonable, unapproved, and undisclosed under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 2016(a). Because the bankruptcy court's decision was not an abuse of discretion, the court affirmed its grant of class certification for plaintiff's injunctive relief claim. Because the court's precedence rejected the fail-safe class prohibition, the court concluded that the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion when it defined the class in the present case. Because the court concluded that Countrywide's Rule 59(e) motion for reconsideration was not based on newly discovered evidence, the court did not revisit the bankruptcy court's separate merits denial of the motion. View "Rodriguez, et al v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc." on Justia Law
Alderwoods Group, Inc., et al. v. Garcia, et al.
This case stemmed from a debt which consisted of claims of tort liability possessed by relatives of people buried in a cemetery called Graceland. Creditors alleged that debtors were liable to them and the members of their class for damages because, due to inadequate record keeping, debtors were unable to locate upon request the grave sites of family members or close relatives buried in Graceland. At issue was whether a bankruptcy court in one federal district had jurisdiction to determine whether a debt was discharged in a bankruptcy case litigated in another federal district. The court held that the court lacked jurisdiction and therefore did not reach the other issues on appeal. View "Alderwoods Group, Inc., et al. v. Garcia, et al." on Justia Law
Wright v. Owens Corning
Plaintiffs installed shingles manufactured by Owens Corning (debtor). They discovered leaks in 2009; shingles had cracked. Each sent warranty claims, which were rejected. They filed a class action alleging fraud, negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. In 2000, the debtors had filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions; the Bankruptcy Court set a claims bar date in 2002 and approved a notice that appeared in multiple publications. Notices of the confirmation hearing for the Plan, in 2006, included generic notice to unknown claimants. At the time they filed the class action plaintiffs did not hold “claims” under 11 U.S.C. 1101. The Third Circuit subsequently established a rule that a claim arises when an individual is exposed pre-petition to a product or other conduct giving rise to an injury, which underlies a right to payment under the Bankruptcy Code. Based on that holding, the district court held that plaintiffs’ claims were discharged. The Third Circuit affirmed in part and remanded, agreeing that plaintiffs had “claims.” Both were “exposed” to the product before confirmation of the plan. Plaintiffs were not afforded due process by published notice, however, because they could not have known they had claims at the time of confirmation. View "Wright v. Owens Corning" on Justia Law