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 matter comes before the Court by cross motions for summary judgement filed by Plaintiff, AgGeorgia Farm Credit, ACA, and Defendant, Deere & Company in an adversary proceeding to determine the priority of liens on a tractor. The Court found that the Debtor’s name on Deere & Company’s UCC filing statement was seriously misleading, giving AgGeorgia the priority lien on the tractor over Deere’s lien. Neither actual notice of Deere’s lien nor res judicata affected AgGeorgia’s lien priority. Therefore, the Defendant’s motion for summary judgement is denied and the Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgement is granted.

The Defendant moved to dismiss and for sanctions this adversary proceeding because the Plaintiff failed to produce his exhibits in anticipation of trial. The Court orally ordered the Plaintiff to produce his exhibits by October 30, 2020 and, after the Plaintiff failed to comply, the Court again ordered the Plaintiff to produce his exhibits by January 10, 2021. The Court heard the motion on March, 4, 2021, at which point the Plaintiff had still not produced his exhibits. The Court found that, because of the Plaintiff’s failure to produce his exhibits and failure to comply with Court orders, along with other delays throughout the Plaintiff’s prosecution of the case, the Plaintiff had demonstrated a “clear record of delay” and “lesser sanctions would not suffice”, the standard for dismissal in Goforth v. Owens, 766 F.2d 1533 (11th Cir. 1985). Accordingly, the Court dismissed the adversary proceeding as a sanction.

Debtor Antonio McCants objected to Proof of Claim No. 14 filed by Creditor Georgia Community Bank F/K/A the Citizens State Bank of Taylor County. The Creditor included $15,461.85 of fees and expenses from the prior case. The Debtor argued that, for these fees and expenses, the Creditor failed to file notice pursuant to Rule 3002.1(c) in his previously dismissed bankruptcy case, the Creditor failed to file notice pursuant to Rule 3002.1 in this case, and § 1327(a) binds the Creditor to the specific provisions of the plan. The Court held that the Creditor’s claim survived the dismissal of Debtor’s previous case regardless of whether the Creditor filed notice, Rule 3002.1 does not apply to the Creditor in this case because the property no longer served as the Debtor’s primary residence, and the plan’s provisions allow for the collection of the fees and expenses. Therefore, the Court denied the Debtor’s objection.

The Chapter 7 Trustee moved for the Court to approve a proposed settlement to resolve an adversary proceeding, Kelley v. Lee, et al. AP 18-07009. Synovus Bank objected to the settlement. After reviewing the four factors bankruptcy courts consider when approving settlements outlined in In re Justice Oaks II, Ltd., 898 F.2d 1544 (11th Cir. 1990), the Court found the Trustee carried his burden and the proposed settlement was within the range of reasonableness. Therefore, the Court approved the Trustee’s settlement.

Movant U.S. National Bank Association, not in its Individual capacity, but solely as trustee for RAMC Trust, Series 2016-CTT, moved for relief from the stay because Respondent’s proposed chapter 11 plan failed to provide adequate protection to the Movant. The proposed chapter 11 plan modified the mortgage on debtor’s principal residence, in violation of § 1123(b)(5). Therefore, the Court grants Movant’s motion for relief from the stay.

Movants, The Otis Overby Co. and Steven Mark Overby moved to reopen the chapter 7 bankruptcy case of Respondent Christine Marie Ray.  Movants allege that technical difficulties with CM/ECF prevented their timely upload of an objection to dischargeability. The Court found that, if the case was reopened, Movant would still be barred from relief under FRBP Rule 4007(c). Therefore, the Court denied Movant’s motion to reopen case.

Creditor Nissan moved for relief from stay against Debtor and objected to Debtor’s confirmation plan. Nissan alleged that the transaction between Nissan and Debtor for the vehicle was a true lease and, additionally, that Debtor’s plan lacked sufficient adequate protection. Debtor, in response, argued that the lease was not a true lease and instead was a disguised security agreement. The Court found the lease to be a true lease and granted the motion for relief from stay; the Court also agreed that the offered adequate protection was insufficient and sustained Nissan’s objection to confirmation.

Chief Judge James P. Smith

The plaintiff asserted that collateral estoppel precluded the debtors from denying that a probate court judgment was nondischargeable under 11. U.S.C. §523(a)(4) and (6). The plaintiff and wife-debtor are sisters. Debtors moved the daughters’ father and his extensive gun collection from Ohio to debtor’s home in Georgia. The plaintiff later moved the father back to Ohio where he soon died. The Ohio Probate Court appointed the plaintiff executrix of the father’s estate, prohibited the debtors from disposing of the guns and ordered them to return the guns to Ohio. Thereafter, the probate court held the debtors in contempt for failing to return and disposing of most of the guns and awarded the father’s estate damages of $125,940. The judgment was assigned to plaintiff, individually, as a distribution in accordance with the father’s will. Later, the debtors filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy court held that the judgment was not a nondischargeable larceny under §523(a)(4) because there was no “felonious taking” of the guns which came into debtors’ possession lawfully when the father brought them to the debtors’ home. The plaintiff had not asserted a claim for embezzlement (fraudulent taking of property by person into whose hands it had lawfully come).

As to §523(a)(6), the probate court had found, in essence, that the debtors had converted the guns to their own use and that their conduct was “malicious.” Issue preclusion barred any argument to the contrary. The probate court judgment established facts from which a finder of fact could find that the debtors acted with intent in concealing the guns. Since the debtors offered no other evidence as to why they concealed the guns, the bankruptcy court held that their debt was nondischargeable under §523(a)(6).

Judge Austin E. Carter

Defendant, a guarantor of certain debt of the Debtor, brought Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss trustee’s § 547 action to avoid indirect preferential transfers, where Defendant was alleged to have benefitted from transfers by the Debtor.  The Court denied the motion to dismiss, and in doing so, declined to adopt a heightened pleading standard for complaints to avoid preferential transfers.In re

The Debtor sought to employ counsel for special purpose under 11 U.S.C. § 327(e) to which the United States Trustee objected, claiming the proposed representation was over-broad and amounted to conducting the case.  The Court found that preparation of the Debtor’s schedules and statement of financial affairs as well as gathering required documents and attending the initial debtor interview amounted to conducting the case, and denied the application as to those acts.  The Court approved the employment as to general human resources and labor matters (WARN Act and FLSA), non-bankruptcy related outstanding and threatened liability lawsuits, and advising the Debtor’s bankruptcy counsel regarding previous efforts to work-out, negotiate, and resolve forbearance and other agreements with its primary secured lender.

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