Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy
by
The case in question pertains to a dispute over the enforceability of dragnet clauses within mortgages used to secure loans funding Frank Welte’s farming operations. The Vera T. Welte Testamentary Trust, of which Frank Welte is the sole beneficiary, pledged its property as security for these loans, which were provided by Roger Rand, another Iowa farmer. The Trust's primary asset is 160 acres of farmland that were leased to Frank. Upon Rand's death, his estate initiated a foreclosure action against the Trust's farmland. The Trust subsequently filed for chapter 12 bankruptcy, which led to a stay of the foreclosure action against the Trust.The Estate filed a proof of claim and a motion to dismiss the Trust’s bankruptcy petition, alleging that the Trust was not a business trust as required by chapter 12. The Trust objected to the Estate’s proof of claim. The Iowa state court ruled that the dragnet clauses in the mortgage documents secured the loans made to Frank in excess of the face amount of the promissory notes.The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Iowa, however, held that the dragnet clauses were not enforceable, thereby concluding that the Trust no longer owed a debt to the Estate. Following this, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa gave preclusive effect to the judgment of the Iowa Court of Appeals concerning the enforceability of the clauses and the amounts owed thereunder.The Trust and the Estate both appealed the district court’s order. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal and cross-appeal due to lack of jurisdiction, as the district court's order was not final and required further proceedings in the bankruptcy court. View "The Security National Bank of Sioux City, IA v. Vera T. Welte Testamentary Trust" on Justia Law

by
The United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded a decision from the bankruptcy court in a case involving unpaid child support. The debtor, Justin Gary LaMonda, petitioned for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 7. He was married to Natalia LaMonda, and after they divorced, he was ordered to pay child support. The case has been converted multiple times, from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13, and then back to Chapter 7 again. Natalia LaMonda filed an unsecured priority claim for unpaid child support, which the Chapter 7 Trustee objected to. The bankruptcy court sustained the Trustee's objection, leading to this appeal.The Appellate Panel found that Natalia LaMonda's claim for unpaid child support arose after the order for relief and before the case was converted under section 1307 of the Bankruptcy Code. According to the Panel, her claim should therefore be treated as if it arose before the petition date, making it eligible for treatment as a priority unsecured claim. Thus, the Panel held that the bankruptcy court erred by disallowing Natalia LaMonda's claim based on the Trustee's objection. The case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "LaMonda v. Harder" on Justia Law

by
The Trustee for the bankrupt debtor, Simply Essentials, LLC, filed a Motion to Compromise under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9019(b) and a Motion to Sell Property Free and Clear of Liens under 11 U.S.C. Section 363(f). Pitman Farms, the owner of Simply Essentials, who is also a creditor in this action, objected. Pitman Farms argued that the sale included Chapter 5 avoidance actions and that such actions are not part of the bankruptcy estate under 11 U.S.C. Section 541(a). The bankruptcy court granted the motion, finding Chapter 5 avoidance actions are part of the bankruptcy estate. Pitman Farms filed a motion to appeal the decision. The Bankruptcy Court certified Pitman Farms’ motion to appeal, and the Eighth Circuit granted permission to appeal.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the bankruptcy court’s conclusion that Chapter 5 avoidance actions are the property of the estate and affirmed the order approving the Trustee’s motion to sell the property of the estate. The court explained that to the extent that Pitman Farms argues the property is created in a third period of time, a time that is equivalent to the moment the bankruptcy proceeding commences, we disagree. Finding such a period of time existed “would frustrate the bankruptcy policy of a broad inclusion of property in the estate[.]” View "Pitman Farms v. ARKK Food Company, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act of 1990 (AWCPA)1 extended copyright protection to “architectural works,” defined in 17 U.S.C. Section 101 as “the design of a building as embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans, or drawings.” The principal question raised by this appeal is whether First Security Bank & Trust Company (the “Bank”), which purchased an uncompleted building in a sale approved by the bankruptcy court in the property owner’s Chapter 7 liquidation proceeding, infringed the architect’s copyright in the building by completing the building without the permission of the building’s architect, Cornice & Rose (“C&R”).   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court there was no actionable infringement because C&R’s infringement claims are precluded by the bankruptcy court’s order approving the sale. The court explained that C&R makes no showing on appeal that the district court would have reached a different result (i.e., denied summary judgment) had it been allowed to file a sur-reply. In other words, the argument is entirely procedural. Further, it ignores that sur-replies are viewed with disfavor and that a party appealing the denial of leave to file a discretionary pleading has a heavy burden to prove that the adverse procedural ruling mattered. Here, even if C&R’s contention that DSC and WWA raised new or additional arguments in the supplemental affidavit is fairly debatable. Thus, the court concluded that the denial of permission to file the requested sur-reply in a thoroughly litigated case was a textbook example of harmless error. View "Cornice & Rose International, LLC v. Four Keys" on Justia Law

by
Farmer William Topp raises crops and livestock in Monroe County, Iowa. After several rough years, he filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy—intended for “family farmers.” Farm Credit Services of America had financed part of Topp’s farm operation and filed a $595,000 claim as a secured creditor. The claim arose from five loans of various durations, with interest rates ranging from 3.5% to 7.6%. Together, the loans were secured by $1.45 million of Topp’s real estate. This bankruptcy appeal arises from a dispute between the farmer and his creditor over their proposed repayment plan. The two could not agree on the appropriate discount rate that should apply to the farmer’s deferred payments so as to satisfy the creditor’s present claim. The bankruptcy court sided with the farmer.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the bankruptcy court studied the Till/Doud relationship and the prevalence of postTill decisions using the prime rate. The court considered the length of the proposed maturity period, the fact that Farm Credit’s claim was substantially over-secured, and the overall risk of nonpayment. In the end, the court approved a 4% rate—the treasury rate plus 2% for risk. By focusing on the starting rate rather than the ultimate rate, Farm Credit has failed to show that the bankruptcy court clearly erred in its determination that a 4% rate was sufficient to ensure full payment on “the value, as of the effective date of the plan,” of the secured claim. View "Farm Credit Services of America v. William Topp" on Justia Law

by
Ritchie Capital Management, LLC fell victim to a massive Ponzi scheme. Ritchie sought recovery outside the receivership. But settlement agreements and bar orders prevent recovery. The district court approved the receivership’s final accounting and a previous bar order. Claiming abuses of discretion, Ritchie appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court ordered the receiver to prepare and file a final accounting. The district court established the requirements that, in its sound discretion, the receiver satisfied in the final accounting. Ritchie fails to identify a clear abuse of discretion in the district court’s approval of the final accounting and, regardless, waived its right to do so. Further, the court held that because bankruptcy-standing doctrine independently prevents Ritchie from bringing claims related to the bankruptcy estate, and because Ritchie can still pursue personal claims against JPMorgan, Ritchie cannot identify a protected right that is deprived here. View "United States v. Ritchie Capital Management, L.L.C." on Justia Law

by
Debtor filed a petition under Chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. Debtor’s recent history of prior bankruptcy filings implicated 11 U.S.C. Section 362(c)(4)(A)(i), which provides that—by operation of law— the automatic stay shall not go into effect upon the filing of a bankruptcy case if a debtor had two or more bankruptcy cases that were pending but dismissed in the previous year. Debtor timely filed a motion to impose the stay in accordance with Section 362(c)(4)(B), which the standing trustee opposed and which the bankruptcy court denied. Debtor timely appealed. While the appeal was pending, Debtor’s bankruptcy case was dismissed.   The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that an appeal is considered constitutionally moot where there is no longer any live case or controversy to be decided. In ordinary parlance, an appeal is considered equitably moot and will be dismissed if implementation of the judgment or order that is the subject of the appeal renders it impossible or inequitable for the appellate court to give effective relief to an appellant. With the dismissal of Debtor’s bankruptcy case, this appeal is constitutionally moot. View "Timothy Davies v. Diana S. Daugherty" on Justia Law

by
Appellant petitioned for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code on August 19, 2020. She valued her residence at $130,000 at the time, and the parties stipulated that she claimed a $15,000 homestead exemption under section 513.475 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. The bankruptcy court granted Appellant’s motion to convert from a Chapter 13 case to a Chapter 7 case. The parties stipulated that sale of Appellant’s residence would result in more than $62,000 in proceeds after satisfying the mortgage lien and paying the $15,000 homestead exemption and costs of sale. Prompted by indications that the Trustee planned to sell her residence, Goetz filed a Motion to Compel Trustee to Abandon Real Property of Debtor. The bankruptcy court denied the motion.   The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the bankruptcy court correctly concluded that postpetition preconversion nonexempt equity resulting from market appreciation and payments toward a mortgage lien accrue for the benefit of the bankruptcy estate upon conversion from a Chapter 13 case to a Chapter 7 case. Further, the court rejected Appellant’s claim that she benefits from the increase in equity in her residence because her residence was removed from the bankruptcy estate. The court explained the parties stipulated that sale of Appellant’s residence would result in more than $62,000 in proceeds after satisfying the mortgage lien and paying the $15,000 homestead exemption and costs of sale. The bankruptcy court’s determination that this sum is “of more than inconsequential value and benefit to the estate” was not an abuse of discretion. View "Machele L. Goetz v. Victor F. Weber" on Justia Law

by
After the bankruptcy court allowed Chapter 12 debtors – several years in a row – to modify their confirmed plan over the objection of their primary secured creditor, that creditor appealed. The issues are whether the bankruptcy court abused its discretion by confirming the debtors’ fourth modified plan under 11 U.S.C. Section 1229 without requiring the debtors to show an “unanticipated and substantial change in circumstances” and whether, under whatever standard applicable to plan modifications, the court’s factual findings were clearly erroneous.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that, at a minimum, a substantial change in circumstances is required to justify modification of a plan under Section 1229. The bankruptcy court’s alternate ruling that the debtors met their burden of showing an unanticipated, substantial change in circumstances is not clearly erroneous, nor is the bankruptcy court’s finding that the fourth modified plan was feasible and confirmable. View "Farm Credit Services v. Steven L. Swackhammer" on Justia Law

by
ResCap Liquidating Trust (“ResCap”) pursued indemnification claims against originator Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc. (“PRMI”), a Nevada corporation. ResCap asserted breach of contract and indemnification claims, seeking to recover a portion of the allowed bankruptcy claims for those holding units in the liquidating trust. The district court concluded that ResCap had established each element of its contractual indemnification claim. The district court awarded ResCap $10.6 million in attorney’s fees, $3.5 million in costs, $2 million in prejudgment interest, and $520,212 in what it termed “post-award prejudgment interest” for the period between entry of judgment and the order awarding attorney’s fees, costs, and prejudgment interest. Defendant appealed.   The Eighth Circuit remanded for a recalculation of postjudgment interest but otherwise affirmed. The court explained that the district court held that, as a matter of Minnesota law governed by Section 549.09, a final judgment was not “finally entered” until its Judgment in a Civil Case resolving attorney’s fees, costs, and interest was entered on April 28, 2021, and therefore Minnesota’s ten percent prejudgment rate applied in the interim period. But Section 1961(a) does not say “final judgment,” it says “money judgment.” The district court, on August 17, 2020, entered a “money judgment.” Thus, the district court erred in applying Minnesota law to calculate interest after August 17, 2020, rather than 28 U.S.C. Section 1961(a). View "ResCap Liquidating Trust v. Primary Residential Mortgage" on Justia Law