Articles Posted in Bankruptcy

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At issue in this case was whether a corporation's release of a debt constituted a constructively fraudulent transfer under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA). The debt that was released had previously been owed to the corporation by a landscaping business that was a creditor of two other corporations owned by the same shareholder. The other corporations debts to the landscaping business were extinguished in exchange for the release. The trial court concluded that the transfer was constructively fraudulent under N.J.S.A.25:2-27(a) because the corporation relinquished its sole asset without receiving reasonably equivalent value in return. An Appellate Division panel reversed that determination. The panel held that the transfer benefited the debtor corporation's sole shareholder because it extinguished the debts of two other corporations that she owned. The Appellate Division determined that the transfer was therefore made for reasonably equivalent value and that it was not constructively fraudulent under N.J.S.A.25:2-27(a). The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the Appellate Division panel improperly ignored the distinction between the corporation that was the debtor for purposes of N.J.S.A.25:2-27(a) and its shareholder, as well as the distinction between the debtor corporation and the other corporate entities that the shareholder owned. The Court concluded the evidence fully supported the trial court's determination the corporation did not receive reasonably equivalent value in exchange for the disputed transfer. Accordingly, the Appellate Division's judgment was reversed and the case remanded to the panel for its consideration of issues that it did not reach. View "Motorworld, Inc. v. Benkendorf" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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This appeal as of right arose from defendants' alleged breach of a settlement agreement executed by defendants and one of the plaintiffs in this action, Globe Motor Company (Globe), to resolve prior litigation between the parties. Shortly after defendants sent two checks totaling $75,000 to plaintiffs to settle the earlier action, a Trustee appointed to represent the estate of an insolvent Minnesota entity brought an adversary proceeding against plaintiffs. The Trustee demanded that plaintiffs disgorge the settlement funds, on the ground that those funds had belonged to the bankrupt entity, not to defendants, and that the transactions were therefore voidable under provisions of the United States Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C.A. 544 and 548. Plaintiffs paid $22,500 to resolve the bankruptcy Trustee's claim. Plaintiffs filed this action against defendants, seeking to recover the money that they paid to settle the bankruptcy proceeding as well as attorneys' fees and costs. The motion judge entered summary judgment for plaintiffs on their breach of contract claim. An Appellate Division panel affirmed that determination, with one judge dissenting. After its review, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the motion judge improperly granted summary judgment in plaintiffs' favor. The Court concluded that the record did not establish plaintiffs' right to judgment as a matter of law. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "GlobeMotor Company v. Igdalev" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from plaintiffs' complaint to cancel and discharge a creditor's judgment lien held by defendant Citi Mortgage, Inc. (Citi). Following the conclusion of Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings the Superior Court entered a default judgment in favor of Citi against plaintiffs, and by virtue of its docketing of that judgment, Citi obtained a lien on all of plaintiffs real property in New Jersey. Four years later, plaintiffs instituted a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding in the United States Bankruptcy Court. Because plaintiffs listed the law firm that had represented Citi, rather than Citi itself in their Chapter 7 petition, the bankruptcy court did not provide notice of the proceeding to Citi. After the bankruptcy trustee abandoned two of plaintiffs' New Jersey properties, the bankruptcy court discharged plaintiffs' debt and closed their Chapter 7 case. Citi did not attempt to levy on plaintiffs property at any time prior to the bankruptcy filing and did not seek to enforce its lien in the wake of plaintiffs bankruptcy discharge. More than three years after the bankruptcy discharge, plaintiffs filed this action under N.J.S.A. 2A:16-49.1, which permits a debtor whose debts have been discharged in bankruptcy, to apply to the state court that has entered a judgment against the debtor, or has docketed the judgment, for an order directing the judgment to be canceled and discharged. The trial court granted Citi's motion for summary judgment and dismissed plaintiffs' claim. The court acknowledged that a judgment creditor, such as Citi, who has not levied on the debtor's property prior to the debtor's filing of a bankruptcy petition, may enforce its valid lien following the bankruptcy discharge, but must do so within the year following the discharge. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division for substantially the same reasons. View "Gaskill v. Citi Mortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

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The issue this appeal presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review centered on an agreement for the sale of a residential property and a subsequent lease and repurchase agreement, specifically whether the transactions collectively gave rise to an equitable mortgage, violated consumer protection statutes, or contravened its decision in "In re Opinion No. 26 of the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law," (139 N.J. 323 (1995)). In 2007, defendant Barbara Felton faced foreclosure proceedings with respect to her unfinished, uninhabitable home and the land on which it was situated. Felton and plaintiff Tahir Zaman, a licensed real estate agent, entered into a written contract for the sale of the property. A week later, at a closing in which neither party was represented by counsel, Felton and Zaman entered into two separate agreements: a lease agreement under which Felton became the lessee of the property, and an agreement that gave her the option to repurchase the property from Zaman at a substantially higher price than the price for which she sold it. For more than a year, Felton remained on the property, paying no rent. She did not exercise her right to repurchase. Zaman filed suit, claiming that he was the purchaser in an enforceable land sale agreement, and that he therefore was entitled to exclusive possession of the property and to damages. Felton asserted numerous counterclaims, alleging fraud, slander of title, violations of the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), and violations of other federal and state consumer protection statutes. She claimed that the parties’ transactions collectively comprised an equitable mortgage and constituted a foreclosure scam, entitling her to relief under several theories. She further contended that the transactions were voidable by virtue of an alleged violation of "In re Opinion No. 26." A jury rendered a verdict in Zaman’s favor with respect to the question of whether Felton knowingly sold her property to him. The trial court subsequently conducted a bench trial and rejected Felton’s remaining claims, including her contention that the transactions gave rise to an equitable mortgage and her allegation premised upon In re Opinion No. 26. An Appellate Division panel affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Appellate Division’s determination. The Court affirmed the jury’s determination that Felton knowingly sold her property to Zaman. Furthermore, the Court affirmed the trial court and Appellate Division's decisions that Felton had no claim under the CFA, that this case did not implicate "In re Opinion No. 26," and that Felton’s remaining claims were properly dismissed. The Court reversed, however, the portion of the Appellate Division’s opinion that affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Felton’s claim that the parties’ agreements constituted a single transaction that gave rise to an equitable mortgage, adopting an eight-factor standard for the determination of an equitable mortgage set forth by the United States Bankruptcy Court in "O’Brien v. Cleveland," (423 B.R. 477 (Bankr. D.N.J. 2010)). The case was remanded to the trial court for application of that standard to this case, and, in the event that the trial court concludes that an equitable mortgage was created by the parties, for the adjudication of two of Felton’s statutory claims based on alleged violations of consumer lending laws, as well as several other claims not adjudicated by the trial court. View "Zaman v. Felton" on Justia Law

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In this case, the issue this case posed to the New Jersey Supreme Court was presented by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit: whether, under New Jersey law, a tax sale certificate purchaser holds a tax lien. In 1998, plaintiff Princeton Office Park, L.P. purchased a 220,000 square foot commercial building on thirty-seven acres of land in the Township of Lawrence. Princeton Office Park did not satisfy its real estate tax obligation to the Township of Lawrence. By 2005, Princeton Office Park owed the Township of Lawrence in back taxes and unpaid penalties. The Township conducted a public auction of municipal tax liens. Defendant Plymouth Park Tax Services, LLC bid on a tax sale certificate for Princeton Office Park’s property. As the owner of the tax sale certificate following the public auction, Plymouth Park paid municipal real estate taxes and charges for Princeton Office Park’s property through the second quarter of 2008. By operation of law, Plymouth Park’s additional payments were added to the sum required for Princeton Office Park to redeem the tax sale certificate owned by Plymouth Park. The redemption amount accrued interest at a rate of eighteen percent following the sale. In 2007, Plymouth Park filed a tax lien foreclosure action against Princeton Office Park seeking to enjoin Princeton Office Park from exercising any right of redemption of the certificate, and requesting a declaration that Plymouth Park was the owner in fee simple of the disputed property. The Chancery Division entered an order establishing a deadline by which Princeton Office Park could redeem the certificate. While Plymouth Park’s foreclosure action was pending in the Chancery Division, Princeton Office Park filed a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. Plymouth Park filed an initial proof of claim in the Bankruptcy Court, citing “taxes” as the basis for its claim. Plymouth Park then objected to Princeton Office Park’s Plan of Reorganization. The United States Bankruptcy Court ruled in favor of Princeton Office Park. The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey affirmed, substantially adopting the reasoning of the United States Bankruptcy Court. The District Court construed the Tax Sale Law to confer on the purchaser of a tax sale certificate a lien, but not a lien that would permit the holder of the certificate to collect unpaid taxes owed to the municipality. Plymouth Park appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The New Jersey Supreme Court answered the Third Circuit's question in the affirmative: the purchaser of a tax sale certificate possesses a tax lien on the encumbered property. View "In re: Princeton Office Park v. Plymouth Park Tax Services, LLC" on Justia Law