Opinions

The Middle District of Georgia offers opinions in PDF format, listed by year and judge. For a more detailed search, enter the keyword or case number in the search box above.

Please note: These opinions are not a complete inventory of all judges' decisions and are not documents of record. Official court records are available at the clerk's office.

Judge John T. Laney, III

This case concerns a student loan discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8). Based on allegations in the initial complaint Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the debt was incurred post-petition and is therefore non-dischargeable. Before the Court heard Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss, the Court granted the Debtor leave to amend the complaint. The Court held that the amendments cured the deficiencies that the Defendants contended were grounds for dismissal.

This case concerned whether the one-year extension of the § 546(a) statute of limitations begins to run from the appointment of the interim trustee or upon concluding the § 341 meeting of creditors.  The court concluded that the appointment runs from concluding § 341 meeting when creditors decline or otherwise fail to elect a trustee.  This result, the court reasoned, is mandated by § 546(a)’s reference to appointment under § 702.  That section appoints the interim trustee as the “permanent” case trustee. Additionally, the court rejected the argument § 702 merely recognizes the interim trustee’s continued appointment if no trustee is elected, as § 701(b) explicitly terminates the appointment of the interim trustee upon concluding the § 341 meeting.

This case concerns whether the Chapter 13 debtors could cram down a claim secured by a purchase money security interest (PMSI) in a motor vehicle purchased for non-personal use within one year of the petition date. The undesignated paragraph following 11 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(9), often referred to as “the hanging paragraph,” prohibits debtors from cramming down claims secured by a PMSI if purchased within particular time periods. A 910-day limitation applies to claims secured by “a motor vehicle (as defined in section 30102 of title 49) acquired for the personal use of the debtor.” A one-year limitation applies to claims secured by “any other thing of value.” The Court concluded that the first provision applies narrowly to motor vehicles acquired for the debtors’ personal use.  All other collateral, including motor vehicles not acquired for the debtors’ personal use, are subject to the one-year limitation provided in the second provision.

This opinion arises from an adversary proceeding seeking to revoke the confirmation order in a Chapter 13 case pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 1330. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff could not overcome his defenses as a matter of law. First, the defendant asserted res judicata and collateral estoppel defenses, as the plaintiff did not raise his allegations of fraud prior to confirmation.  The court held that § 1330 did not require that a party seeking revocation discover the fraud after the court’s entry of the confirmation order.

Secondly, the defendant argued that, because the claimant did not hold an allowed claim, he was not a party in interest and accordingly, lacked standing to assert the action. The court, however, determined that a party does not need to hold an allowed claim to seek revocation of a confirmation order and dismissal of Chapter 13 case.

The defendant also claimed that the plaintiff should be judicially estopped from making certain allegations because he had made prior inconsistent statements in a prior proceeding.  The court noted that the plaintiff had offered sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact finder to determine that the statements were not made to make a mockery of the judicial system.

Lastly, the defendant claimed that the complaint failed to state a claim for relief because it was based on the plaintiff’s belief that the defendant made fraudulent statements. Although the court determined that the plaintiff must meet the heightened pleading standard under Rule 9, the court found sufficient allegations in the complaint to support that burden.

Therefore, the court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

This case was before the court on a Rule 12 motion to dismiss. The defendant argued that the complaint failed to state a claim for relief because a prior state-court judgment resolved the claim and thus, res judicata prevented recovery. The court, however, determined that the complaint neither incorporated the state-court judgment nor sufficiently described the state court’s findings to create grounds for dismissal under Rule 12. Because the court would have to consider documents outside the pleadings to determine the merits of a res judicata defense, the court denied the motion.

Judge Austin E. Carter

In this adversary proceeding, creditor seeks determination of dischargeability of debt arising from medical malpractice action where the injury resulted from an improper prescription issued by a nurse practitioner working under delegated authority of the debtor-physician.  The Court granted in part and denied in part the debtor’s motion for summary judgment.  Granting summary judgment in favor of the Debtor as to 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6) claim because the statute requires that the injury be caused by the acts of the debtor herself rather than her agent, and because debtor’s actions amounted to not more than negligence.  Denying summary judgment as to 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A) claim because genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether the nurse practitioner was the debtor’s agent and, if so, whether the nurse practitioner’s conduct constituted fraud.

The Court held that lender’s title to real property under recorded security deed reverted to debtor seven years after maturity date reflected in the security deed, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 44-14-80.  The Court held that a loan modification agreement that extended the maturity date did not prevent reversion because that agreement was not recorded.  The Court rejected lender’s argument that debtor’s waiver of statutes of limitation in the loan documents precluded the reversion.

In this Chapter 13 case, an oversecured creditor attempted to amend its proof of claim several years after plan confirmation to add interest accrued from the date the petition was filed until the plan confirmation.  The creditor argued that under 11 U.S.C. § 506(b) such interest accrues inherently as part of its claim. Further, the creditor asserted that the Debtor’s motion to modify its plan canceled the res judicata effect of the plan confirmation. The court disagreed, holding that because the creditor failed to provide any notice of its intent to collect this interest prior to plan confirmation, the order confirming the Debtor’s Chapter 13 plan is res judicata and precludes the creditor from enlarging its claim post-confirmation.

Chief Judge James P. Smith

The debtor was covered by a group long term disability (LTD) insurance policy through his employer.  The debtor became disabled, and qualified for a LTD monthly benefit which was to be reduced by any Social Security disability or retirement benefit he received.  The debtor elected to receive a full, unreduced LTD monthly benefit while he awaited a determination on his claim for Social Security benefits.  Three years later, he was awarded Social Security disability benefits and received a lump sum payment.  The LTD insurer then requested reimbursement of $92,772 that it had overpaid the debtor.  The debtor sent the insurer a check and filed Chapter 7 relief two months later.  The trustee sought to recover the $92,772 as a preferential transfer.  11 U.S.C. § 547(b). 

The court held that the “ordinary course of business” defense, section 547(c)(2), protected the transfer.  Both the debt the debtor incurred in favor of the insurer and the $92,772 payment of that debt were made under circumstances similar to those which exist between a similarly situated disabled employee and his insurance company and were consistent with industry standards.  Further, the debt and repayment were incurred and made pursuant to the terms of a contract.  The court also held that there was no unusual collection practice because the insurer was merely stating the obvious when it told the debtor it would sue if he failed to pay.
 

A divorce decree awarded the debtor’s former spouse 35% of his county retirement pension.  The debtor’s Chapter 13 plan proposed to treat the award as a property settlement subject to discharge upon completion of the plan.  The former spouse objected, claiming her 35% interest was her sole and separate property.

The court held that the award was a property settlement and not alimony.  Further, state law prohibits a divorce court from assigning county retirement pension rights to a former spouse.  The court held that the debtor did not hold payments from the pension in constructive trust for his former spouse.  Finally, the court held the debtor had filed his petition in good faith despite errors and omissions on his Schedules and Statement of Financial Affairs.

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