Having determined in its Opinion of May 27, 2016 that the Bank violated the discharge injunction, the Court held a hearing as to what sanctions, if any, may be appropriate. The Debtor sought actual damages, attorneys' fees, and punitive damages. As to actual damages, the Debtor sought all payments made to the bank post-discharge, as well as all payments made to insure the property and to maintain electricity and water service to the property post-discharge. The Court determined that payments made voluntarily to the bank on the original note were not recoverable, but payments made under the subsequent renewal notes, which were made in violation of the discharge injunction, were recoverable. The Court further concluded that the insurance and utility costs were not recoverable because they were in rem obligations contained in the deed of trust and the debtor would have been required to pay these costs even had the bank not violated the discharge injunction. The Court thus awarded $11,796.29 in actual damages. As to attorneys' fees, the only evidence presented at the hearing was that the Debtor paid a $5,500 retainer and $586.00 in court reporter fees. No fee agreement or time records were produced, but counsel for the Bank conceded that the $5,500.00 had been fairly earned. Counsel for the debtor requested further opportunity to present evidence of his fees, but the Court denied that request and awarded the debtor $6,086.00 in attorneys' fees and costs. Finally, the Court determined that the Bank did not act with the requisite degree of malevolence to require an award of punitive damages.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016