Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Bankruptcy
COUNTY OF SAN MATEO V. CHEVRON CORP.
Plaintiffs alleged that the energy companies’ extraction of fossil fuels and other activities were a substantial factor in causing global warming and a rise in the sea level, bringing causes of action for public and private nuisance, strict liability, strict liability, negligence, negligent failure to warn, and trespass.The court held that the district court lacked federal question jurisdiction under Sec. 1331 because, at the time of removal, the complaints asserted only state-law tort claims against the energy companies. The court held that Plaintiffs’ global-warming claims did not fall within the Grable exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule. In addition, Plaintiffs’ state law claims did not fall under the “artful-pleading” doctrine, another exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule, because they were not completely preempted by the Clean Air Act.Further, the court found Plaintiffs’ claims were not removable under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The court also held that the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction under the federal-officer removal statute, Sec. 1442(a)(1), because the energy companies were not “acting under” a federal officer’s directions. The court then rejected the energy companies’ argument that the district court had removal jurisdiction over the complaints under Sec. 1452(a) because they were related to bankruptcy cases involving Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal, and Texaco, Inc. Finally, the court held that the district court did not have admiralty jurisdiction because maritime claims brought in state court are not removable to federal court absent an independent jurisdictional basis. View "COUNTY OF SAN MATEO V. CHEVRON CORP." on Justia Law
Corso v. Rejuvi Laboratory, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision reversing the bankruptcy court's order allowing creditor's claim in the bankruptcy proceedings of Rejuvi, a chapter 11 debtor. Creditor seeks recognition and enforcement of a default money judgment for personal injuries against Rejuvi granted by an Australian district court. The panel held that Rejuvi waived any objection to personal jurisdiction by voluntarily appearing in the South Australian district court when it sought relief from the default judgment. Accordingly, the panel remanded to the district court for further proceedings. The panel granted creditor's motion to take judicial notice of Rules 230 and 242 of the 2006 Civil Rules of the District Court of South Australia. View "Corso v. Rejuvi Laboratory, Inc." on Justia Law
Rodriguez v. Barrera, et al.
Debtors Julio Barrera and Maria de La Luz Moro filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code hoping to reorganize their assets and finances. Instead of selling most of their assets to obtain an immediate discharge of their debts, they opted to keep their assets, try a reorganization plan to repay creditors, and receive a discharge later. For some time they continued to meet the terms of their reorganization plan. But they changed their minds following the sale of their home, which had appreciated in value significantly since they filed for bankruptcy. Barrera and Moro converted their Chapter 13 bankruptcy to a liquidation of their estate under Chapter 7. The Chapter 7 trustee (Trustee) claimed a right to a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the home, including the appreciation that occurred after their Chapter 13 petition was filed. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals' review centered on who was entitled to the proceeds from the sale of the home. Specifically, did the sale proceeds from the real property of the estate belong to the Chapter 7 estate or to the debtors? The Court concluded that under 11 U.S.C. 348(f)(1)(A), the sale proceeds from the home belonged to the debtors. View "Rodriguez v. Barrera, et al." on Justia Law
Lenois v. Lukman
In 2017, the Delaware Court of Chancery held that Plaintiff Robert Lenois had pled with particularity that the controlling stockholder of Erin Energy Corporation (“Erin” or the “Company”) had acted in bad faith. It further held that Lenois had pled either “very serious claims of bad faith” or “a duty of care claim” against the remainder of Erin’s board in connection with two integrated transactions. In those transactions, the controller allegedly obtained an unfair windfall by selling certain Nigerian oil assets to Erin. The trial court dismissed the derivative claims on standing grounds (i.e., holding that demand was not excused). Lenois appealed that decision. During the pendency of the appeal, Erin voluntarily filed for bankruptcy. The Chapter 7 Trustee obtained the permission of the Bankruptcy Court to pursue, on a direct basis, the claims that had been asserted in the Lenois action in the Court of Chancery. As a result of the bankruptcy proceedings, which vested the Trustee with control over the claims, the Delaware Supreme Court determined that the sole issue on appeal was moot. The case was remanded to the Court of Chancery to resolve two pending motions — a Rule 60(b) motion and the Trustee’s motion pursuant to Rule 25(c) to be substituted for nominal defendant Erin and then realigned as plaintiff (the “Realignment Motion”). The Court of Chancery denied the Rule 60(b) motion and summarily denied the Rule 25(c) motion. Here, the Supreme Court reversed, holding the Court of Chancery should have granted the Trustee’s Substitution and Realignment Motion. View "Lenois v. Lukman" on Justia Law
Davis v. CitiMortgage, Inc.
The Davises took out a mortgage on their residence in 2005. After they defaulted on the loan and filed for bankruptcy, Jerome Davis, a licensed attorney who represented himself, received a bankruptcy discharge. The bankruptcy court later held that the discharge did not extend to the debt Davis owed CitiMortgage. Rather than appeal, Davis first attempted to remove CitiMortgage’s foreclosure action to federal court, alleging that CitiMortgage’s efforts to obtain a personal deficiency judgment contravened his bankruptcy discharge. He then filed a separate suit alleging unfair debt collection practices against CitiMortgage. Davis lost in each of those proceedings. CitiMortgage was awarded attorney fees and costs, 28 U.S.C. 1447(c) when the court remanded the foreclosure proceeding for lack of federal question jurisdiction.The Seventh Circuit dismissed Davis’s appeal, stating that it lacked jurisdiction to review the remand order. Davis waived his arguments challenging the attorney fees and costs award. The court upheld the dismissal of Davis’s suit against CitiMortgage; all of Davis’s claims center on his contention that the debt owed CitiMortgage was subject to his 2018 discharge. The court took judicial notice that the bankruptcy court had held the opposite in Davis’s adversary proceeding. View "Davis v. CitiMortgage, Inc." on Justia Law
Dean v. Seidel
Dean filed a Chapter 7 voluntary petition. The trustee for the estate did not have sufficient unencumbered funds to retain counsel to pursue claims for the estate. Reticulum, a creditor, agreed to fund the trustee’s litigation in exchange for a share of any of litigation proceeds. The bankruptcy court approved the agreement. The district court affirmed. Dean appealed, contending that the agreement undermined the statutory ranking system for distribution of the estate’s property by allowing Reticulum to move ahead of other creditors.The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of standing. Bankruptcy standing may be addressed even when it was not raised below. The court employed the “person aggrieved” test, a “more exacting standard than traditional constitutional standing.” The appellant must show that he is “directly, adversely, and financially impacted by” the exact order being appealed as opposed to the proceedings more generally. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor-out-of-possession typically has no concrete interest in how the bankruptcy court divides up the estate. A debtor may retain bankruptcy standing by showing that defeat of the order on appeal would affect his bankruptcy discharge. The approval of the litigation funding agreement did not affect whether Dean’s debts will be discharged. View "Dean v. Seidel" on Justia Law
State Farm Florida Insurance Co. v. Carapella
In 1999, Kristina drugged her sons and put them, and herself, in a running car in a closed garage. Matthew died; Adam and Kristina survived. Kristina was convicted of second-degree murder and remained in prison until 2016. In 1999, Kristina had State Farm automobile and homeowners insurance policies. In 2001, Matthew’s estate, Adam, and their father (the Rotells) sued Kristina for wrongful death and bodily injury.Kristina tendered her defense to State Farm, which filed state court declaratory judgment actions, seeking determinations that her policies did not cover the incident. The Rotells allege that State Farm rejected a settlement offer even though Kristina wished to accept it. The state court then held that the policies did not cover the incident. State Farm withdrew from the wrongful-death lawsuit. The state court entered a default judgment against Kristina; a jury entered a $505 million verdict. Kristina was insolvent, so the Rotells petitioned for involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court entered an order subjecting Kristina’s assets (claims against State Farm for bad faith and malpractice) to its control and appointed Carapella as trustee. The verdict is Kristina’s only liability. Carapella sued State Farm in Florida state court. State Farm then sought to intervene, post-judgment, in the wrongful-death action and moved to vacate the judgment, arguing that the Rotells’ fifth amended complaint was untimely and that the default judgment was void.The district court and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. The Bankruptcy Code’s “automatic stay” provision, 11 U.S.C. 362(a), precluded State Farm’s motion to intervene. View "State Farm Florida Insurance Co. v. Carapella" on Justia Law
Sandton Rail Company LLC v. San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad, Inc.
Big Shoulders sued the railroads (SLRG), with federal jurisdiction ostensibly based on diversity of citizenship, and requested that the district court appoint a receiver to handle SLRG’s assets. That court did so, which brought the case to the attention of several creditors. One of them, Sandton, intervened and challenged the appointment of the receiver and the district court’s jurisdiction. Sandton alleged that Big Shoulders failed to join necessary parties who, if added, would destroy diversity of citizenship. Meanwhile, other creditors (Petitioning Creditors) filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition on behalf of SLRG in federal bankruptcy court in Colorado. The receiver objected. Because the judicially approved receivership agreement contained an anti-litigation injunction, the district court initially concluded that the bankruptcy petition was void. On reconsideration, however, the district court determined that it did not have the authority to enjoin the bankruptcy. The bankruptcy continued. After Big Shoulders refused to continue to fund the receivership, the district court approved its termination.The Seventh Circuit consolidated several appeals, each of which involved questions of standing or mootness. The court concluded that those justiciability questions required the dismissal of all but Sandton’s appeal. As for Sandton’s argument that diversity jurisdiction is lacking, the court remanded to the district court for an application in the first instance of the “nerve center test” to determine if SLRG and Mt. Hood are citizens of Illinois. View "Sandton Rail Company LLC v. San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad, Inc." on Justia Law
Kinney v. HSBC Bank USA
This appeal arose because debtor-appellant Margaret Kinney failed to make some of the required mortgage payments within her Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan’s five-year period. Shortly after the five-year period ended, however, she made the back payments and requested a discharge. The bankruptcy court denied the request and dismissed the case. The issue on appeal was whether the bankruptcy court could grant a discharge, and the answer turned on how the Tenth Circuit characterized Kinney’s late payments. She characterized them as a cure for her earlier default; HSBC Bank characterized them as an impermissible effort to modify the plan. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the bank and affirmed dismissal. View "Kinney v. HSBC Bank USA" on Justia Law
Alliance WOR Properties, LLC v. Illinois Methane, LLC
In 1998, Old Ben Coal Company conveyed its rights to the methane gas in various coal reserves to Illinois Methane. A “Delay Rental Obligation” required the owner of the coal estate to pay Methane rent while it mined coal in areas that Methane had not yet exploited. A deed, including the Delay Rental Obligation was recorded. A few years later, Old Ben filed for bankruptcy and purported to sell its coal interests “free and clear of any and all Encumbrances” to Alliance. Old Ben did not notify Methane before the bankruptcy sale but merely circulated notice by publication in several newspapers. Alliance later sought a permit to mine coal. Methane eventually sought to collect rent in Illinois state court. Alliance argued that Old Ben’s “free and clear” sale had extinguished Methane’s interest.The bankruptcy court held that Alliance was not entitled to an injunction. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed. The deed indicates that the Delay Rental Obligation runs with the land and binds successors; it “is not simply a personal financial obligation between” Old Ben and Methane. The covenant directly affects the value of the coal and methane estates. Methane was a known party with a known, present, and vested interest in real property, entitled to more than publication notice. View "Alliance WOR Properties, LLC v. Illinois Methane, LLC" on Justia Law