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United States Courts Opinions

United States Courts Opinions (USCOURTS) collection is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) to provide public access to opinions from selected United States appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts.

The District of Nebraska offers a database of opinions for the years 1997 to current, listed by year and judge. For a more detailed search, enter the keyword or case number in the search box above.

The court granted summary judgment to the Chapter 7 trustee and avoided a preferential transfer. The debtor and a non-debtor jointly purchased a vehicle on an installment contract prior to filing bankruptcy and are both listed as owners on the title. The non-debtor is in possession of the vehicle and makes the payments on it. The seller noted its lien on the certificate of title within 90 days prior to the petition date, which led the trustee to file this adversary proceeding to avoid the lien under § 547(b).

The only contested element was § 547(b)(5) – whether the transfer enabled the defendant to recover more than it would have in a Chapter 7 liquidation. The court ruled in the trustee’s favor, finding that if the transfer was avoided, the defendant would hold a partially unsecured claim and be paid pro rata with other unsecured creditors in an amount less than its fully secured claim.

The defendant argued that it could recover the full amount of its claim from the non-debtor co-owner even if the lien against the debtor’s interest were avoided. The court explained that it cannot consider potential recoveries from third parties and must only evaluate a hypothetical recovery from the debtor’s bankruptcy estate.

The defendant, relying on the Nebraska Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act, also argued that the lien could not be avoided because the debtor’s undivided one-half interest in the vehicle cannot be transferred without the co-owner’s consent. The court rejected this argument, citing Nebraska case law holding that “[the Act] is the exclusive method of transferring title to a vehicle, but it is not conclusive of ownership.” The court also pointed out that the trustee may sell the vehicle pursuant to § 363(h) even if it is partially owned by a non-debtor.

Finally, the court declined to accept the defendant’s equitable argument that the co-owner would lose the vehicle while the defendant continued to collect the debt from her. The court observed that equitable defenses are generally not recognized in preference actions, and the co-owner may raise the issue of detriment in response to a motion to sell, if one is filed.

The bankruptcy court granted the debtor’s objection to the claim of a creditor holding a promissory note signed by a member of the debtor in his personal capacity. The creditor had also obtained summary judgment against the individual in a state court lawsuit, where the automatic stay prevented the state court from considering the allegations against and defenses of the debtor.

The bankruptcy court found that affidavits filed with the register of deeds and construed as mortgages under Nebraska law did not encumber the debtor’s real estate because they were signed by the borrower in his individual capacity at a time when he was not a member of the debtor. Therefore, the liens are avoidable by the debtor pursuant to § 544.

The state court ruling finding the promissory note secured by the affidavits to be an obligation of the individual borrower is not preclusive on the issue of whether the note was an obligation of the debtor because the debtor’s liability on the note was not litigated or decided, due to the automatic stay. Moreover, the debtor was not a party to the judgment, nor was it in privity with the individual.

Finally, even if the debtor were found to owe the claimant a general receivable, the creditor has not taken timely steps to collect on it, nor has it been acknowledged and reinstated. The claim is stale and unenforceable.

After a trial, the bankruptcy court granted the debtor a discharge of her student loans for undue hardship.

The debtor works two jobs and her future income is unlikely to increase significantly and may even decrease if she is physically unable to continue to perform a second job.

Her living expenses are modest. Although the Department of Education challenged her entertainment and cigarette expenditures, the court found that the debtor will likely have to reduce or eliminate them in light of increased post-petition expenses. The debtor also has additional expenses – with no concomitant income or support – because she cares for her special-needs teenage grandson. The court refused to judge the debtor’s family arrangement, finding it “entirely inappropriate to find or suggest that [the debtor] should not care for her grandson or to weigh undue burden factors against her for doing so.”

Finally, the court found that while the debtor’s failure to avail herself of loan repayment programs offered by the Department of Education was a factor weighing against discharge, it was not dispositive in light of the other facts and circumstances that demonstrate an undue hardship.

After a trial, the court ruled in the debtor’s favor in a § 523(a)(2) non-dischargeability action. The debtor had given security interests in personal property to two creditors – the bank and his father; the lien priorities are the subject of a pending state court action between the creditors. The bank filed this adversary proceeding to except the deficiency, if any, from discharge under § 523(a)(2)(A) and (B).

The court found the debtor had informed the bank about the loan from his father, and there was no evidence of a knowingly false or reckless statement by the debtor. The court also found the bank had not proven it justifiably relied on the debtor’s alleged misrepresentations about the collateral available to the bank because it had not done its due diligence. “Absent some evidence that the bank required . . . documentation [that a prior loan was paid off and the prior security interest in assets was released], the Court cannot find that the bank justifiably relied on boilerplate representations in its loan documents as to lien priority[.]”

The court granted summary judgment to the debtor-defendants in this § 523(a)(2)(A) action because the debt is owed by a separate business, not by the debtors.

The court granted a secured creditor’s request for turnover of $40,000 in insurance proceeds for a stolen tractor owned by the debtor. The debtor had been ordered to deliver the tractor and other machinery and equipment to the secured creditor prior to the time it was stolen, but failed to do so. Members of the debtor paid for the insurance policy and listed themselves as named insureds. The secured creditor was not named a loss payee. The insurance check was made out to the debtor, members of the debtor, and the secured creditor.

The court determined the members did not have an insurable interest in the tractor under Nebraska law. “Using this tractor and paying the insurance premiums on it does not create or establish a legally enforceable interest in it.” The members also argued that the insurance proceeds were not property of the bankruptcy estate because the insurance policy was obtained long after the plan was confirmed. The court was not persuaded by this argument, stating that the right to the proceeds is determined by who was named as an insured under the policy and who held an insurable interest, and in this case the answer to both questions was the debtor.

While the secured creditor had a lien on the tractor, it was not named as a loss payee on the insurance policy, so it had no direct right to the proceeds. Instead, its rights were dependent on and subordinate to the debtor’s interest in the proceeds. Under the confirmed plan, the secured creditor was entitled to proceeds from the sale or liquidation of the debtor’s assets, but insurance proceeds were not addressed. The court ruled that the equities of the case favored the secured creditor: “In the confirmed plan, the parties contemplated sale or liquidation of assets including the MX 285 tractor. Although the confirmed plan did not specifically require Debtor to turnover insurance proceeds, the Court finds that Debtor’s repeated refusal to comply with the terms of the plan and Court orders to turn over the MX 285 tractor and other machinery and equipment warrants an equitable remedy in favor of Rabo.”

The court granted a creditor’s motion to file a proof of claim more than two years late in a Chapter 7 case. Section 509(b) permits the allowance of a late-filed claim if it falls within the scope of § 726(a)(1), (2), or (3). Here, the claim is not a priority claim under § 507 and the movant had timely notice of the case, so the only applicable subsection is § 726(a)(3) as the trustee has not yet made a final distribution of assets.

The court denied a debtor’s motion to reopen her Chapter 7 case to file a reaffirmation agreement. The discharge had been entered and the case was closed more than a year before the motion to reopen was filed. Because § 524(c)(1), which says that a reaffirmation agreement is enforceable only if filed before a discharge is granted, is strictly construed by courts, granting the motion to reopen the case simply to file an unenforceable reaffirmation agreement would be futile.

The plaintiff was injured by the debtor in a bar fight. The debtor pled no contest to criminal charges and was ordered to pay restitution. The plaintiff also obtained an award of damages in a state-court civil lawsuit against the debtor. After a trial, the bankruptcy court excepted the debt from discharge under § 523(a)(6), finding that the debtor acted willfully – by invading a legally protected interest of the plaintiff – and maliciously, because in striking the plaintiff, harm was substantially certain to occur.

The court denied the debtor’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and gave creditors who moved for an extension of time to file a dischargeability proceeding – after the deadline had expired – an opportunity to show that equitable grounds exist for extending the deadline. To equitably toll the deadline, the creditors must prove they pursued their rights diligently and that some extraordinary circumstance stood in their way. An evidentiary hearing was scheduled on the creditors’ motion.