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.

Chief Judge James P. Smith

The debtor sought to recover as a preferential transfer certain funds from a judgment creditor which also held a default judgment against the debtor’s employer-garnishee.  The creditor argued that once it obtained the default judgment, that the garnishment action was closed and that the garnishee was paying its own default judgment from its own funds rather than paying on the debtor’s debt pursuant to the garnishment.  The employer, however, had continued to withhold funds from the debtor’s paychecks and send those exact amounts to the creditor which then applied the funds on the debtor’s debt as shown by its Account Detail History for the debtor.  The court held that the debtor could recover the funds from the creditor as preferential transfers.

The Chapter 7 debtor contended that the creditor-bank’s claim had been settled, satisfied and discharged pursuant to a compromise and release agreement entered into by the bank and an insurance company.  The court disagreed and held that the settlement agreement did not release the bank’s claim against the debtor, and that neither accord and satisfaction, judicial estoppel, promissory estoppel nor dismissal with prejudice barred the banks’ claim against the debtor.

The Chapter 13 debtors filed an adversary proceeding seeking damages against the IRS, alleging that the IRS had attempted to collect certain taxes in violation of their Chapter 13 discharge.  The court dismissed the complaint and held that pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 7433, a plaintiff is required to exhaust its administrative remedies before it can bring a complaint for damages under section 7433.

The plaintiff, a law firm, contended that the debtor had agreed to pay his outstanding legal fees, as well as subsequent fees, as soon as he received his income tax refund if the law firm would continue to represent him in certain state court litigation. The law firm continued to represent the debtor, the debtor failed to pay his legal fees, and the law firm obtained a state court judgment against the debtor in state court. After the debtor filed bankruptcy, the law firm contended the debt was nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A). The court held that the debtor’s oral representation to use his tax refund to pay the legal fees was not a statement respecting his financial condition, that the law firm’s reliance was justifiable, and that, if the law firm proved the remaining elements of section 523(a)(2)(A), the law firm’s claim for damages included legal fees incurred both prior to and subsequent to the alleged misrepresentation.

Judge John T. Laney, III

The Court granted the Trustee’s Motion for Summary Judgment to set aside certain fraudulent transfers under O.C.G.A. § 18-2-70, et seq., as made applicable to bankruptcy cases pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 544. The Court held that the doctrine of judicial estoppel barred the Debtor and the Defendant from claiming the transfers were merely returning the property to the Defendant, and that the Defendant had always been the rightful owner of the property. The Court also found that the Trustee established all the elements of a fraudulent transfer by showing that the Debtor did not receive a reasonably equivalent value in exchange for the transfers and the Debtor was insolvent or became insolvent as a result of the transfers.

On Summary Judgement the Court was asked to decide a narrow issue regarding federal tax liens. Specifically, the issue before the Court was whether accounts receivable acquired by the debtor more than 45 days after the filing of a notice of tax lien on the debtor's property may be considered proceeds of contract rights acquired by the debtor prior to the expiration of that 45 day period, so as to give the security interest of a commercial creditor in the receivables priority over the tax lien. The Court held that payments received by the Debtor under its contract after the filing of the tax liens were identifiable proceeds of contract rights, rather than accounts receivable. Therefore, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. §§ 6323(a) and (c) the Bank's prior perfected security interest in the contract payments is senior to the IRS's tax lien.

Debtor may not exempt a health savings account under O.C.G.A. § 44-13-100(a)(2)(C) or (E). An HSA is not the type of illness benefit contemplated by the exemption statute because it does not serve as a replacement for income.

Debtor who omitted from his schedules information about significant financial assets relating to a business, a worker's compensation claim, and a divorce and who resisted fully answering questions about the assets at trial was denied a discharge under 11 USC § 727(a)(4)(A) for making a false oath in connection with his bankruptcy case.

Loan agreement between the debtor and oversecured creditor provided for 15% attorney fees. Such attorney fees are only enforceable under state law if perfected by a notice that gives the debtor 10 days to avoid the fees by paying the debt in full. The creditor did not send the 10-day notice prior to the petition date, yet requested the contractual amount of attorney fees pursuant to 11 USC § 506(b). The Court allowed attorney fees, but limited them to an amount determined to be reasonable.

For debts subject to a co-signer, when the debtor's plan fails to provide for payment of interest at the contract rate, the creditor is entitled to stay relief against the codebtor to collect any amounts due under the contract but not provided for in the plan.

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