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The summaries on this website are summaries of the opinions issued by the judges of the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Virginia from October 2004 to date. The opinions may be searched by year, judge, category and chapter. For a more detailed search, enter a keyword in the search box above. This opinion bank, however, is not an exhaustive list of opinions issued by the judges of the Western District. These summaries are not intended to replace other research methods, but may be used as a starting point for your research. These summaries do not contain information as to whether an opinion has been published, appealed or the disposition of any such appeal, or otherwise overruled or affected by subsequent case law or statute. These summaries have been prepared for the convenience of the researcher and in no way constitute an interpretation by the Court of the opinion summarized. Please rely on the opinion not the summary. Please contact Judge Connelly's chambers or Judge Black's chambers regarding any questions or errors.

Harlow v. Wells Fargo (In re Harlow) (Case No. 17-71487; A.P. No. 20-07028) 12.12.22

The Plaintiffs filed a class action adversary proceeding against Wells Fargo Bank and its parent company for actions related to the debtors having their mortgage loans placed in forbearance status by Wells Fargo without their permission, knowledge or request. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Defendants assert that the notices of forbearance explicitly disclaimed compliance with Rule 3002.1, that the Rule does not give rise to a private cause of action and that the court lacks jurisdiction over claims involving debtors from other courts. The Court denied the motion to dismiss on the count involving the violation of Rule 3002.1. The Defendants assert that the count involving the alleged violation of the automatic stay should also be dismissed as providing forbearance relief and filing notices of forbearance are not attempts to collect a debt or conduct otherwise prohibited by 11 U.S.C. Section 362. The Court found that the sufficient facts were alleged to support a plausible claim for violation of Section 362(a)(3) , but not as to Section 362(a)(6). The Plaintiffs also asked the Court to invoke its inherent powers and powers under 11 U.S.C. Section 105(a) to sanction the Defendants for abuse of process, contempt of court and fraud on the court. The Court held that the Plaintiffs made a plausible claim that Wells Fargo engaged in a maneuver or scheme sufficient to undermine the integrity of the bankruptcy system and for contempt under the Court’s inherent powers and Section 105 powers, but not for fraud on the court. Finally, the Court dismissed the parent company as a defendant as the Plaintiffs did not allege sufficient facts to support piercing the corporate veil to hold the parent company liable for the acts of its subsidiary.

In re Skaggs (Case No. 17-50941) 08/09/2022

The parties contested whether the creditors’ post-discharge collection action subjected the offending creditors to sanctions for contempt of the bankruptcy discharge order. The parties both filed motions for summary judgment. Applying the Supreme Court’s holding in Taggart v. Lorenzen, 139 S. Ct. 1795 (2019), to the facts of the case, the Court found that the Court may hold the creditors in contempt of the discharge order for violating the discharge injunction.

In re Knott (Case No. 21-50423) 06/24/2022

The debtors converted their chapter 7 case to one under chapter 13. The chapter 13 trustee filed a motion to dismiss or reconvert arguing that the debtors were not eligible to be debtors in chapter 13 because the amount of their debt as of the petition date exceeded the statutory limits based on the debtors’ schedules. The debtors asserted that the amount of their debt as of the petition date was not the proper inquiry for eligibility. Instead, the debtors argued that the Court should not rely on the debtors’ schedules but a combination of the debtors’ schedules, the proofs of claims filed, and potential objections to some of those claims. The Court disagreed, holding that the eligibility limits of section 109(e) are based on the amount of debt as of the petition date. The Court relied on the debtors’ sworn schedules in determining that they were ineligible and thus reconverted the case back to chapter 7.

Johnson v. IRS (In re Johnson) (Case No. 15-70541; A.P. No. 21-07009) 5.2.22

This matter was before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment regarding whether or not the Debtor's 2005 and 2006 tax debts were non-dischargeable. The IRS assessed liability under 26 U.S.C. Section 6020(b). 11 U.S.C. Section 523(a) excepts from discharge debts for taxes in which a return is required but not filed. Section 523(a)(*) defines return to exclude returns made by the IRS under Section 6020(b). The Debtor did not file a return in either 2005 or 2006 and the IRS' assessment of those tax liabilities under Section 6020(b) precludes the Debtor from receiving a discharge as to these debts. The Court found the debt to be non-dischargeable and granted summary judgment in favor of the IRS.

In re Ross (Case No. 20-50885) 11/22/2021

A debtor, who is both a farmer and a school principal, claimed a $10,000 exemption in farming equipment pursuant to Virginia Code section 34-26(7). The chapter 7 trustee objected, arguing that exemptions claimed under Virginia Code section 34-26(7) are limited to a debtor’s primary or principal occupation or trade. Because the language of the statute does not limit the exemption to a debtor’s primary or principal occupation or trade, the Court overruled the trustee’s objection.

Bell v. Department of Education (In re Bell) (Case No. 19-50991; A.P. No. 20-05001) 09/01/2021

The debtor filed a complaint requesting that the Court determine that repayment of his student loan debt was an undue hardship for him, and therefore, under Bankruptcy Code section 523(a)(8), his student loan debt should not be excepted from discharge. The Court found that the debtor met the three prongs of the Brunner test to show that repayment of the student loan debt would impose an undue hardship on him. Accordingly, the Court entered an order discharging the debtor’s student loan debt.

In re Taylor (Case No. 09-72532) 7/21/2021

Pro se Debtors’ motion to hold creditor, its principal and its attorney in violation of 11 U.S.C. § 524(a) was denied as there was no evidence of any violation of the discharge injunction when the lender exercised its rights under the loan documents and applicable state law and proceeded in rem against the Debtors’ property. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Court also held that it could not review state court judgments to the extent the Debtors were challenging the actions of a state court.

Kaltschmidt v. Shannon (In re Shannon) (Case No. 18-61757; A.P. No. 20-06025) 02/04/2021

The plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment in this adversary proceeding seeking to except the debtor’s debt owed to the plaintiff from discharge under section 523.  The plaintiff based his motion for summary judgment on a collateral estoppel theory, relying on a Montana state court’s judgment which had found the defendant liable for fraud, constructive fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty.  The Court found that the elements for collateral estoppel on the plaintiff’s 523(a)(2)(A) count were satisfied and thus granted judgment as a matter of law in the plaintiff’s favor.

Thomas v. Midland Funding LLC (In re Thomas) (Case No. 16-50612; A.P. No. 17-05010) 10/28/20

The defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking the Court to grant summary judgment in its favor on three issues.  Specifically, the defendants contended that Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claims related to the filing of proofs of claim are precluded by the Bankruptcy Code and Rules, that the amended proofs of claim that the defendants filed are in compliance with Rule 3001, and that the defendants are not subject to sanctions for their noncompliance with the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure.  The Court denied the motion for partial summary judgment.