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Opinions


    Schuessler, et al. v. SBA, et al., Adv. No. 20-2065 (May 2020) -- Judge B.H. Ludwig
    Chapter 12 debtors filed adversary proceedings against the SBA and its administrator after their Paycheck Protection Program loan applications were denied because of their pending bankruptcy cases. The debtors argued the denial of their applications ran afoul of the non-discrimination provision in 11 U.S.C. §525(a) and the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§701 et seq. The court denied the debtors’ request for injunctive relief. The ruling was final as to the debtors’ core claims and served as recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law to the district court on the non-core claims.


    Verde Environmental Technologies, Inc. v. C2R Global Manufacturing, Inc. (In re C2R Global Manufacturing, Inc.), Case No. 1830182-beh, Adv. Proc. No. 20-02028-beh, 2020 WL 2529335 (Bankr. E.D. Wis. May 18, 2020) (May 2020) -- Judge B.E. Hanan
    Verde filed an adversary proceeding, seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief related to its claims for false advertising under federal and state law. C2R responded with a motion to dismiss Verde’s Count II, relating to claims for false advertising under Wisconsin Statute section 100.18—the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). The Court concluded that Verde, as a competitor of C2R, is not a member of “the public” and, therefore, not eligible to bring a sec. 100.18 claim. The Court also ruled that Verde was not induced to act based on any statements or representations by C2R, a second element of a claim under sec. 100.18. Accordingly, the Court granted C2R’s motion to dismiss Count II of the adversary complaint with prejudice.


    In re C2R Global Manufacturing, Inc., Case No. 18-30182-beh, -- WL -- (May 2020) -- Judge B.E. Hanan
    In approving the parties’ settlement of their patent infringement lawsuit (waged as a claim objection proceeding) the Court vacated its February 20, 2020 decision construing the parties’ disputed patent claim terms.


    In re Gentry, Case No. 15-20990-beh, 2020 WL 2479662 (Bankr. E.D. Wis. May 13, 2020) (May 2020) -- Judge B.E. Hanan
    Four years after his plan was confirmed, a debtor objected to the State of Wisconsin’s proof of claim for overpayment of ChildCare benefits. The debtor argued that the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in In re Dennis, 927 F.3d 1015 (7th Cir. 2019) (holding that overpayments were not domestic support obligations) is controlling and warrants the reclassification of the claim as a general nonpriority unsecured claim. The Court rejected the State’s arguments that res judicata and collateral estoppel relating to the confirmed Chapter 13 plan precluded the debtor from bringing the objection. Rather, the Court determined that deadlines set by statute and rule, plus law of the case and judicial estoppel governed the Court’s analysis. In doing so, the Court sustained the debtor’s objection, found that the Court is bound to follow In re Dennis and will do so here because the debtor’s case is still open.


    Dalton v. Navient (In re Dalton), Ch. 7 Case No. 19-26478-kmp, Adv. No. 19-2175 (Bankr. E.D. Wis. Apr. 13, 2020) (April 2020) -- Judge K.M. Perhach
    The Debtors in a no-asset Chapter 7 case filed a complaint against a private student loan lender seeking reformation of the loan contracts and to void any contract procured through forgery. Because the claim did not affect the allocation of property among creditors and would have no effect on creditors besides the student loan lender, the claim was not "related to" the bankruptcy case. The Court did not have jurisdiction over the complaint, and the Court granted the lender's motion to dismiss.


    Gral v. Gral (In re Gral), Adv. Proc. No. 17-02277 (March 2020) -- Chief Judge G.M. Halfenger
    Individuals and entities related to or associated with the chapter 7 debtor brought this adversary proceeding against the estate seeking declaratory relief. The chapter 7 trustee asserted various counterclaims, which the plaintiffs moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The court dismissed the counterclaims as supported by merely conclusory allegations. The court denied the trustee leave to replead the counterclaims because the estate--represented first by a committee of unsecured creditors, when the case was a case under chapter 11, and then by the chapter 7 trustee--tried and failed multiple times to plead any cognizable claims against the plaintiffs. The court also dismissed the plaintiffs' claims as supported by merely conclusory allegations and because the relief sought by the plaintiffs appears unnecessary given the dismissal with prejudice of the trustee's counterclaims.


    Wiseman v. Milwaukee Radiologists Ltd, Adv. No. 19-2153 (March 2020) -- Judge B.H. Ludwig
    The chapter 7 debtor filed an adversary proceeding against a medical service provider, alleging violations of the automatic stay. The provider mailed invoices to the debtor’s deceased husband, requesting payment of a $12.61 balance due for medical services provided to him. Because the record showed that the defendant's collection efforts were not directed against the debtor or her bankruptcy estate, the court found there was no violation of the automatic stay and dismissed the complaint.


    In re Judith Engelman, Case No. 18-26174 (March 2020) -- Chief Judge G.M. Halfenger
    York Investment LLC filed a proof of claim for nearly $1.4 million owed on a note and fully secured by a mortgage on the chapter 13 debtor's real property and moved to dismiss the case under 11 U.S.C. §109(e), which provides that only an individual with prepetition debts below specified limits is eligible to proceed under chapter 13. The debtor objected that her signature was forged on the note and mortgage, so neither is valid or enforceable against her. After an evidentiary hearing, the court found that the debtor's now-deceased husband signed the note and mortgage on her behalf pursuant to a valid power of attorney for finances. The court concluded that the debtor is liable on the debt to York but that the mortgage is void under state law because it does not state that an authorized agent signed the mortgage on the debtor's behalf. Due to the debt to York, the debtor's unsecured prepetition debts exceed the limit specified for such debts in §109(e), and the debtor is not eligible to proceed under chapter 13.


    Jacobson v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (In re Jacobson), Adv. Proc. No. 19-02094 (March 2020) -- Chief Judge G.M. Halfenger
    The debtor brought an adversary proceeding seeking to disallow a claim secured by a mortgage on her residence and to void the note and mortgage under state law alleging that her ex-husband obtained them by defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The creditor moved to dismiss asserting that the debtor's claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and claim preclusion because the parties litigated or could have litigated the claims in prior proceedings in state court. The court granted the motion and dismissed the proceeding: Rooker-Feldman bars the bankruptcy court's consideration of the debtor's claims to the extent she seeks to set aside the state court's judgments, including her attempt to avoid the preclusive effect of a state-court foreclosure judgment in the creditor's favor by arguing that it was procured by fraud, and claim preclusion otherwise bars litigation of the debtor's claims because they arose from the same common nucleus of operative facts as the claims that were litigated in state court.


    In re Greenpoint Tactical Income Fund LLC, Case No. 19-29613 (February 2020) -- Chief Judge G.M. Halfenger
    The debtors in two jointly administered chapter 11 cases moved to reject a settlement agreement with Erick Hallick under 11 U.S.C. §365(a). Hallick objected that the agreement cannot be rejected under §365(a) because it is not an executory contract. The court concluded that the settlement agreement is an executory contract and granted the debtors' motion to reject it, concluding that significant unperformed obligations remain on both sides. The court also rejected Hallick's argument that the state-law doctrine of equitable conversion compels a different result, concluding that the doctrine does not apply because there was no transfer or attempted transfer of real property, the agreement is not substantially similar in structure to those to which Wisconsin's courts have applied the doctrine, and the equities do not favor applying it.