Bankr. E.D.N.C.: McInnis v. Phillips- Determination of Whether Debts are Primarily Consumer; Creditor Does Not Have Standing to Bring Avoidance Actions

Summary:

In determining whether 11 U.S.C. § 707(b) was applicable, the bankruptcy court held that despite the debtors having thirteen consumer debts totaling $296,775.43 and eight business debts totaling $294,595.56, “[b]ecause of how easily a mortgage can skew the claims in favor of consumer debt” the debt secured by real property should be excluded from this consideration. In re Jones, 2009 WL 102442, *1 (Bankr. E.D.N.C. Jan. 12, 2009) (citing In re Booth, 858 F.2d 1051, 1054 (5th Cir. 1998)). After this adjustment, the debtors had primarily non-consumer debts and 11 U.S.C. § 707(b) did not apply.

Additionally, the bankruptcy court held that only a Trustee and not a creditor had authority to bring avoidance actions under 11 U.S.C. § 548. It similarly rejected the creditors argument that it could bring a derivative suit, that the right to appear and be heard under 11 U.S.C. § 1109 conferred standing and that their was some nebulous constitutional right to bring an avoidance action.

Commentary:

The ability to segregate home mortgages from other consumer debts in calculating whether 11 U.S.C. § 707(b) is applicable is a powerful tool for helping debtors driven to bankruptcy primarily due to a failed business by recognizing that such debts skew the computation and could have the affect of precluding such business debtors from obtaining a fresh start merely by having a home.

For a copy of the opinion, please see:

McInnis v. Phillips- Determination of Whether Debts are Primarily Consumer; Creditor Does Not Have Standing to Bring Avoidance Actions

About

1. Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Washington University, 1993. 2. Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University, 1996. Admissions to Practice of Law: North Carolina Bar, 1996. Federal District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of North Carolina. Specialty Certification: North Carolina State Bar: Certified as a Specialist in Consumer Bankruptcy. Areas of Practice: Practice limited to consumer and business debtor bankruptcy law, 1998 to present. Memberships: National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers (NCATL). North Carolina Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section. Lectures prepared and presented: North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers seminar on bankruptcy; Topic: Counseling the Consumer Debtor Prior to Court - C.Y.A. Forms to Help 'Gird They Loins'; 2001. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Preparing Chapter 13 Plans; 2002. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Efficient Office Practices; 2003. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Debates; 2004. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Chapter 7 & 13 Hot Issues; 2004. Positions held: NACBA National Convention; Convention Chair; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator: Topic: Basic Bankruptcy Issues; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Chapter 13-Disposable Income and Other Issues; 2007. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Representing Members of the Military and Their Families; 2007. NACBA, Member of National Board of Directors, 2006 to present. NCATL, Chair of the Bankruptcy Section, 2003 to 2007. NACBA, Chair of the North Carolina Section, 2003 to 2007. NC Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section, Bankruptcy Council Member, 2004 to present.

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