Published on:

BK Ct. ND IL EDIn re: Richard D. Olson, 16-01356 Chapter 13
Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Div.
Opinion Date: June 22, 2016 Judge Schmetterer

This Memorandum Opinion addresses the feasibility and good faith of a Chapter 13 Plan of Reorganization filed on the even of foreclosure by a homeowner. The Mortgagee bank wanted to shut down the case and the Plan. The Court said “not so fast” and prepared a carefully crafted analysis of each objection filed by the bank.

Facts

Richard Olson filed four Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petitions and Plans in a five year period- the last one on the eve of the foreclosure of his home. Ventures Trust 2013-I-H-R (“Mortgagee”), assignee of the Debtor’s original mortgage lender Bank of America, objected to confirmation of the latest Plan on the basis that it failed to comply with the confirmation requirements in 11 USC §§1325(a)(1), (a)(3), (a)(6) and (a)(7). Specifically, the Mortgagee alleged that there were inaccuracies in the Debtor’s schedules, that the Debtor had failed to correctly value certain obligations while not disclosing others at all, that the Plan was not “feasible,” and that both the case and the Plan had been filed in “bad faith.” In response, the Debtor amended his Bankruptcy Schedules to address some of the inaccuracies.

It is worth noting that the Plan under review in this case proposed curing mortgage defaults per §1322(a)(5) and reinstating monthly mortgage payments to the Mortgagee; as well as committing all the Debtor’s disposable income for the maximum commitment period of 60 months. General Unsecured Creditors are scheduled to receive not less than 2% of the face value of their claims.

The Court entered a Memorandum Opinion on the balance of the Mortgagee’s Objection before ruling on confirmation of the Plan.
Continue reading

Published on:

BK Ct. ND IL EDIn re: William W. Yotis III, Chapter 13 Debtor
ND IL ED 2016, Bankruptcy No. 14-bk-02689

Anthony C. Gasunas, Plaintiff v.
William W. Yotis III, Defendant
ND IL ED 2016, Adversary No. 14-ap-00321

Decision: March 28, 2016 Judge: Schmetterer

This Adversary case filed in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy relates to promissory note fraud between the debtor and creditor. It was tried before Judge Schmetterer. Plaintiff/Creditor Anthony C. Gasunas (“Gasunas”) filed the Complaint to determine dischargeability of the debt owed to him by Debtor/Defendant William W. Yotis, III (“Yotis”). Specifically, the Complaint alleged that Yotis made knowing and fraudulent misrepresentations to borrow money from Gasunas and that the judgment obtained in State Court was not subject to a dischargeable in accordance with §523(a)(2)(A) and (B), as well as §523(a)(4).

Facts

Shortly after Yotis and Gasunas met, Yotis disclosed that he had lost his license to practice law. But Yotis also did not disclose that he had been criminally indicted for forgery and charged in a civil suit filed by the Illinois AG with consumer fraud and deceptive business practices. Nord did Yotis tell Gasunas about any allegations of fraud and related misconduct prior to or after he obtained a series of loans from Gasunas. From 2009 to 2010 Yotis solicited loans from Gasunas totaling $52,345 and gave him a Promissory Note in return. When Yotis failed to pay him back, Gasunas filed suit in State Court and secured a judgment for $52,345 plus costs (the “Judgment”). During this period Gasunas and Yotis were friends – having been introduced through Yotis’ wife – Cavallo – and for that reason the Judgment was extended. Prior to meeting Yotis, Gasunas learned from Cavallo that Yotis was a disbarred Attorney, but had gotten his life back together as a salesman for a remodeling company. Cavallo also told Gasunas that Yotis had been incarcerated on what she said were false charges. Eventually, Yotis and Gasunas met and became friendly.

Yotis acknowledged signing a Promissory Note but denied making any misrepresentations and argued instead that any reliance by Gasunas on his alleged representations would not have been justifiable – a prerequisite for such a claim of nondischargeability. In fact, Yotis claimed that Gasunas knew the terms and debt recited in the Promissory Note were false when he signed it.

Following a trial the Court concluded that there had been a series of misrepresentations by Yotis in obtaining loans from Gasunas and that reliance on those misrepresentations was justifiable. Accordingly, Judgment was entered in favor of Gasunas on Count I under § 523(a)(2)(A); but on Count II found in favor of Yotis.
Continue reading

Published on:

7th Circuit Court Seal

Am. Commercial Lines, LLC v. Lubrizol Corp.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
Docket No. 15-3242  Opinion: March 25, 2016

In this case about manufacturer liability in the setting of a commercial distribution relationship, a customer attempts to hold the manufacturer of a product liable for the distributor’s failures. The customer’s claims are based on the so-called “special relationship” between the distributor and manufacturer, as well as the customer’s status as an alleged intended beneficiary of the distribution arrangement. The 7th Circuit, however, was having none of it.

Factual Background

American Commercial Lines (ACL) manufactures and operates tow boats and barges that operate on US inland waterways. Lubrizol manufactures industrial lubricants and additives. VCS Chemical Corp. (VCS) distributed Lubrizol products to customers such as ACL.

Lubrizol and VCS jointly persuaded ACL to buy product through VCS. But before delivery began Lubrizol terminated VCS as a distributor – without informing ACL. VCS did not inform ACL either. Instead of telling ACL that it could no longer provide the Lubrizol product, VCS supplied a substitute. When ACL figured out the switch it sued both VCS and Lubrizol, arguing that the two must have enjoyed a “special relationship” because of their apparent cooperating in selling ACL on the idea of buying the Lubrizol product.

Procedural History

In its lawsuit in the District Court, ACL claimed that it had been duped by VCS who was acting on behalf of Lubrizol, and that as a result both companies were liable for the switch. ACL settled. Lubrizol brought a Motion to Dismiss and the District Court dismissed it. ACL appealed the dismissal of Lubrizol to the 7th Circuit.

Continue reading

Published on:

Understanding-the-ADA-GorenAre you in compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA)? What happens if you’re not? Is there a way to fix or retrofit your workspace to be ADA compliant? This week’s post summarizes a recent article from Understanding the ABA, the blog maintained by Attorney William D. Goren. In Understanding the Burden of Proof When ADA Remediation Is at Issue, Goren discusses building and retrofitting ADA-compliant structures. Highlights of the article include:

Title III Requirements

Title III of the ADA calls for ADA compliance in construction or remediation of non-compliant structures. Specifically:

Buildings constructed after 1992 must accord with ADA Architectural Guidelines. The specific guideline depends upon the year the building was built.

Renovations to existing buildings must also comply with ADA Architectural Guidelines; and the path of travel to the renovations must allow access by persons with disabilities.

Existing facilities must include whatever changes are “readily achievable.”

Readily Achievable Remediation

Where ADA remediation is required, “readily achievable” changes mean those that are achievable without much difficulty or expense; and that determination in turn means looking at several factors including:

  1. the nature and cost of the action needed;
  2. the overall financial resources of the site or sites involved in the action;
  3. the number of persons employed at the site;
  4. the effect on expenses and resources;
  5. legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation, including crime prevention measures;
  6. if applicable: A) the geographic separateness and the administrative or fiscal relationship of the site or sites in question to any parent Corporation or entity; B) the overall financial resources of any parent Corporation or entity; C) the overall size of the parent Corporation or entity with respect to the number of employees; D) the number, type, and location of its facilities; and E) the type of operation or operations of any parent Corporation or entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the work force of the parent Corporation or entity.

What is Readily Achievable

Examples of “readily achievable” ADA remediation of existing buildings include:

  1. Installing ramps;
  2. Making curb cuts in sidewalks and entrances;
  3. Repositioning shelves;
  4. Rearranging tables, chairs, vending machines, display racks, and other furniture;
  5. Repositioning telephones;
  6. Adding raised markings on elevator control buttons;
  7. Installing flashing alarm lights;
  8. Widening doors;
  9. Installing offset hinges to widen doorways;
  10. Eliminating a turnstile or providing an alternative accessible path;
  11. Installing accessible door hardware;
  12. Installing grab bars in toilet stalls;
  13. Rearranging toilet partitions to increase maneuvering space;
  14. Insulating lavatory pipes under sinks to prevent burns;
  15. Installing a raised toilet seat;
  16. Installing a full-length bathroom mirror;
  17. Repositioning the paper towel dispenser in a bathroom;
  18. Creating designated accessible parking spaces;
  19. Installing an accessible paper cup dispenser at an existing fountain;
  20. Removing high pile, low density carpeting; and
  21. Installing vehicle hand controls.

Continue reading

Published on:

7th Circuit Court Seal

Jepson v. Bank of New York Mellon
Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit  Docket No. 14-2459

Opinion Date: March 22, 2016

This case is a testament to the subprime crisis and illustrates how complex and devastating mortgage securitization and pooling was to ordinary homeowners; middle-class people faced with sudden and insurmountable mortgage debt. Sadly, this decision also illustrates just how hard it is to stand up to the holders of pooled mortgage loans.

The underlying facts of the case are so common that the Plaintiff could have been anyone; while the tortuous path of the case up to the 7th Circuit – years after the underlying foreclosure and bankruptcy – left this Plaintiff financially devastated.

Factual Background

Patricia Jepson (Jepson) executed a Note and Mortgage issued by “America’s Wholesale Lender” – a d/b/a of notorious subprime mortgagee Countrywide – and Mortgage Electronics Registration Systems (MERS), its nominee. The Note was endorsed by Countrywide d/b/a America’s Wholesale Lender and transferred to CWABS, a residential mortgage trust operating under New York law that pooled loans and sells mortgage-backed securities sold on Wall Street. CWABS is governed by a Pooling and Service Agreement (PSA). Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM) was the Trustee for CWABS. MERS therefore assigned Jepson’s mortgage to BNYM.

When Jepson eventually defaulted on her mortgage – a common scenario in such subprime traps – BNYM filed a Foreclosure complaint in State Court. Jepson inturn filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. BNYM predictably moved to lift the Automatic Stay. But instead of lying down and letting the Bank proceed, Jepson filed an Adversary Complaint and Objection seeking a declaration that BNYM had no interest in her mortgage because, inter alia, the note did not proceed through a complete chain of intervening endorsements; was endorsed after the closing date in the PSA; and that America Wholesale Lender was a fictitious entity rendering the Note was void under Illinois law. Continue reading

Published on:

7th Circuit Court Seal

Continental Casualty Company v. Symons, et al.
7th Circuit Court of Appeals Citation: 14-2665, 14-2671 & 15-106

Decided: March 22, 2016

This fraudulent transfer case pits 2 insurance company’s – as well as the controlling family of the seller and their related businesses – against one another. despite some fancy footwork on the part of the sellers, the Court saw through the ruse to the heart of the deceit. The upshot: if it quacks like a duck then it probably is. To nobody’s surprise, fraudulent transfers were found and liability followed close behind.

Factual Background

IGF Insurance Company owed Continental Casualty Company more than $25 million for a crop-insurance business it bought in 1998. In 2002 IGF resold the business to Acceptance Insurance Company for approximately $40 million. Continental alleged in the District Court that IGF’s controlling family — Gordon, Alan, and Doug Symons — structured the sale so that most of the purchase price was siphoned into the coffers of other Symons-controlled companies rendering IGF insolvent. Specifically, Continental claimed that $24 million of the $40 million purchase price went to 3 Symons-controlled companies—Goran Capital, Inc.; Symons International Group, Inc.; and Granite Reinsurance Co.—for sham noncompetition agreements and a superfluous and over-priced reinsurance treaty. Continental, still unpaid, sued for breach of contract and fraudulent transfer.

In 1998 IGF bought Continental’s crop-insurance business at a price to be determined at either side’s option by the exercise of a put or call option. In 2001 Continental exercised its put option; under the contractual formula, IGF owed Continental $25.4 million. At that same time, IGF sold its business to Acceptance for $40 million. The Symons, who controlled IGF, structured the purchase price: $16.5 million to IGF; $9 million to IGF’s parent companies Symons International and Goran in exchange for noncompetition agreements; and $15 million to Granite, an affiliated Symons-controlled company, for a reinsurance treaty. Continental, still unpaid, sued for breach of contract and fraudulent transfer.

Continue reading

Published on:

7th Circuit Court Seal

In re: Great Lakes Quick Lube, LP
7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals
No. 15-2093 Decided Mar. 11, 2016

In this case the value of unexpired commercial leases was put to the test. When a popular auto-repair/oil-change franchise went into Chapter 11, its unsecured creditors sought to recoup the value of 2 unexpired leases it relinquished just before filing. The 7th Circuit analyzed the issue under 2 provisions of the Bankruptcy Code and ultimately decided that the terminated leases were an asset of the Estate and that letting them go was tantamount to an improper pre-filing transfer.

Factual Background

Great Lakes Quick Lube LP (Great Lakes) owned oil change and automotive repair stores throughout the Midwest. Its business model included selling stores to shareholders and leasing them back. One such arrangement was made with T.D. Investments I, LLP (TDI), which leased 2 stores to Great Lakes. But in 2012, under mounting financial pressure, Great Lakes terminated its TDI leases.

Adversary Case in Bankruptcy

Ultimately, Great Lakes sought Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection less than 60 days after terminating the TDI leases. The Estate’s Unsecured Creditors’ Committee filed an Adversary action contending that those lease terminations amounted to either a preferential or fraudulent transfer by Great Lakes to TDI, and that the value of those leases should be disgorged to the Bankruptcy Estate. The Bankruptcy Court denied relief to the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee because, in its analysis, termination of the TDI leases was not a “transfer” at all – much less a preferential or fraudulent transfer.

Continue reading

Published on:

Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Illinois

Henderson Square Condo. Ass’n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC
Illinois Supreme Court , Case No. 2015 IL 118139
Opinion Nov. 4, 2015 – Rehearing Denied Jan. 28, 2016

This case stems from the ill-fated Lincoln-Belmont-Ashland Redevelopment project featured on our Blog before. When a Condominium Association sued the developers based on failure to reveal construction defects, the Courts weighed in on whether the claims were time-barred. Untimely, the Appellate and Supreme Court broke with the Trial Court and found that a question of fact remained as to what the Plaintiff Condominium Association knew – or should have known – and when. Only after answering that question, the Court decided, could it be determined if certain claims were time barred.

Factual Background

In 2006 Defendants developed and sold unites pursuant to a contract with the City of Chicago for the mixed use Lincoln-Belmont-Ashland Redevelopment project. In 2011 Henderson Square Condominium Association sued the developers of the community, alleging: breach of implied warranty of habitability, fraud, negligence, breach of the prohibition in the Chicago Municipal Code as to the misrepresentation of material facts in marketing and selling real property, and breach of a fiduciary duty.

Trial Court

The Trial Court dismissed the Condo Association’s Complaint because it concluded that Plaintiffs failed to adequately plead the Chicago Municipal Code violation and breach of fiduciary duty and that certain of the Counts were time-barred pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/13-214 and 5/2-619.

Continue reading

Published on:

7th Circuit Court Seal

Smith v. Sipi, LLC
7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Docket 15-1166 Date:Jan. 20, 2016

In this case from right in our neighborhood – Joliet, Illinois – the Bankruptcy Court and 7th Circuit agree that using the market value of property instead of its artificially low disposal price in a tax sale reflects the real intent of both Bankruptcy law and Illinois law. At the same time, both Courts agree that one taking from a tax-sale buyer is entitled to bona fide purchaser protection.

Background

The Smiths lived in a single-family home in Joliet, Illinois. In 2004 Mrs. Smith inherited the property. While living there in 2000, she and her husband failed to pay the real estate taxes, giving rise to a tax lien in favor of Will County. At a 2001 auction, SIPI purchased the tax lien and paid the delinquent taxes of $4,046.26 plus costs.Mrs. Smith did not redeem that tax obligation and SIPI recorded its Tax Deed in 2005; ultimately selling the property to Midwest for $50,000.

Procedural History

In 2007 the Smiths filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy protection and successfully sought to avoid the Tax Sale. Both the Bankruptcy Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that under the terms of 11 U.S.C. 548(a)(1)(B) the property was not transferred for reasonably equivalent value. However, both Courts did find that Midwest was a “subsequent transferee in good faith” (i.e. a bona fide purchaser) entitled to retain the value of the property it had purchased.

Continue reading

Published on:

BK Ct. ND IL EDAmerican Eagle vs. Friedman, 13-AP-01199

Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Ill., Eastern Div.  Opinion: December 29, 2015.

JACK B. SCHMETTERER, Bankruptcy Judge.

This case resulted in a Summary Judgment finding despite the assertion by the Debtor-Defendant of his 5th Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination.

Specifically, this Adversary Case arose from the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy filed by Arthur Friedman (“Debtor”). Creditor-Plaintiff, American Eagle Bank (the “Plaintiff) filed a 3-count Complaint to determine the dischargeability of debt as follows:

Count I  –  per 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A)
Count II –  per 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6)
Count III-  per 11 U.S.C. §§ 727(a)(3) and (a)(5)
Count IV- per  11 U.S.C. §§ 727(a)(2), (4),(5) and (7)

Count IV was added in the Amended Complaint. The Debtor answered both the Complaint and the Amended Complaint.

On August 4, 2015 the Plaintiff served Requests for Admission pursuant to Fed.R.Bankr.P.7036. The Debtor never responded, and the Plaintiff brought a Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count IV, alleging that the unanswered Requests were deemed admitted under Fed.R.Civ.P.36(a)(3). The Court agreed, and Summary Judgment was granted on Count IV.

I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

Subject matter jurisdiction is proper in the Bankruptcy Court per 28 U.S.C. §1334, and this is a “core proceeding” under 28 U.S.C. §§157(b)(2)(A), (I), and (O) since it seeks to determine the dischargeability of a debt. Therefore, it “stems from the bankruptcy itself” and may be decided by a Bankruptcy Court (See: Stern v. Marshall, 131 S.Ct. 2594, 2618 (2011)).

II. UNCONTESTED FACTS

The Plaintiff filed a Statement of Material Facts as required by Local Rules, but the Debtor failed to file an opposing statement; thus “[a]ll material facts in [Plaintiff’s] statement…[were] deemed admitted.” Accordingly, the following was taken from the Plaintiff’s Statement of Material Facts, Debtor’s Answers, and the Requests for Admission:

Debtor was a principal and the president of Prestige Leasing (“Prestige”). Before filing, the Debtor was party to a lawsuit that was settled in his favor. As a result, the Debtor received $75,000 annually, minus attorneys’ fees.  Payments were made to Prestige until it was closed in 2011. After that time, payments were made to the Debtor. In his Answers the Debtor admitted as much, and that payments were received within a year of filing bankruptcy.

Moreover since the Debtor did not respond to the Requests for Admission within the 30-day time limit prescribed by the rules, the resulting admission could be deemed a violation of his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. Therefore, the Court’s inquiry began with a discussion of the Debtor’s Fifth Amendment rights.

Continue reading