Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy
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This appeal arose from the dismissal of a medical malpractice action filed by plaintiff Nicole Alward against defendants Emery Johnston, M.D., Gary Fleischer, M.D., Tung Thuy Nguyen, M.D., Elliot Hospital, and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. Following a second back surgery, plaintiff consulted with two different attorneys about a potential medical malpractice claim. Ultimately, both attorneys advised the plaintiff that they were unwilling to represent her in a medical malpractice action against the treating physicians and hospitals. As a result, plaintiff believed that her potential claim had no value. Plaintiff then consulted with a bankruptcy attorney, Mark Cornell, in April 2015. She informed Cornell about her potential medical malpractice claim and that other attorneys had declined to pursue it. When Cornell drafted the plaintiff’s petition for chapter 7 bankruptcy, he did not list the potential medical malpractice claim on the plaintiff’s schedule of assets. Cornell also failed to advise plaintiff that she needed to disclose this potential claim to the bankruptcy trustee. At her ex-husband’s suggestion, in February 2016, plaintiff consulted with a third law firm, Swartz & Swartz, P.C., which agreed to represent her and pursue the medical malpractice claim. Plaintiff filed the underlying medical malpractice action against defendants in June 2016. The bankruptcy court issued its order discharging her case in July 2016. In October, defendants moved to dismiss the medical malpractice action, arguing plaintiff should have been judicially estopped from pursuing her medical malpractice claim because she failed to disclose it on her schedule of assets in the bankruptcy case. Plaintiff immediately consulted with new bankruptcy counsel, who moved to reopen her bankruptcy case to "administer a potential asset" and appoint a new trustee. The bankruptcy court granted the motion and appointed a new trustee. Plaintiff then resisted defendants' motion to dismiss, which was denied by the trial court. The trial court ultimately dismissed the case, holding plaintiff was judicially estopped from bringing her medical malpractice claim. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in applying judicial estoppel to this matter, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alward v. Johnston" on Justia Law

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Respondent Martin Mason appealed a circuit court order which found that his wife Robin's obligation to pay 50% of his federal income taxes was automatically discharged in her proceedings for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. On appeal, Martin argued that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it found that Robin's obligation to pay 50% of his 2006 federal income taxes had been discharged in bankruptcy because he failed to make a showing before the bankruptcy court that her obligation was non-dischargeable. Martin also argued that the trial court erred as a matter of law and unsustainably exercised its discretion when it declined to award him attorney's fees and costs. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it found that Robin's obligation to pay Martin's 2006 federal income taxes had been discharged in bankruptcy. In light of the Court's reversal of the trial court's order on the merits, Martin became the prevailing party and, therefore, may be entitled to recover costs. Accordingly, the Court remanded the case to the trial court to address this issue. View "In the Matter of Robin Mason & Martin Mason" on Justia Law

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In 1989, Richard Cormier conveyed property to CF Realty Trust by warranty deed, and CF Realty Trust recorded the conveyance in the registry of deeds shortly thereafter. In 1993, CF Realty Trust and Plaintiff C F Investments both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Pursuant to a proposed plan of reorganization, CF Investments succeeded to all of CF Realty Trust's assets, including the property, and the bankruptcy court entered a final decree approving the proposed plan in 1995. However, C F Investments never recorded its interest in the Property in the registry of deeds. Notwithstanding the bankruptcy plan, CF Realty Trust continued to conduct real estate business after 1995. In 2002, Robert Fuller, acting as trustee of CF Realty Trust, conveyed the property to himself as an individual and duly recorded the transaction in the registry of deeds. He then borrowed $219,000, secured by a mortgage on the property, from First Eastern Mortgage Corporation, and First Eastern recorded its interest. First Eastern then assigned its interest to Defendant Option One Mortgage Corp, and Option One duly recorded. In 2008, counsel for CF Investments notified defendant Option One of its competing claim to the Property, alleging that Fuller had acquired title to it unlawfully and had no authority to borrow money against it. In June 2008, Defendant Wells Fargo notified CF Investments of its intent to conduct a foreclosure sale of the property because Fuller had defaulted on his promissory note. CF Investments brought this action in superior court to enjoin the foreclosure sale, arguing that CF Realty Trust did not own the property at the time of its purported conveyance, that such conveyance was therefore invalid, and that consequently Fuller could not lawfully have granted a mortgage to First Eastern. The trial court disagreed, concluding that First Eastern was protected as a bona fide purchaser without notice of CF Investments' claims. After a bench trial, the Superior Court ruled in favor of Option One and Wells Fargo, concluding that the claim of First Eastern had priority over CF Investments' claim. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "C F Investments, Inc. v. Option One Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law