By:Michael A. Cibik
Bankruptcy Judge Arthur B. Briskman recently smacked Bank of America to the tune of $12,500.00 for violating a debtor’s discharge. The award included $2,500.00 in attorney’s fees. Shockingly, Bank of America did not attend the evidentiary hearing set by the Court. However, even if they did attend, I doubt there was much they could have done to prevent Judge Briskman from imposing the same sanction. Doing a little research, this is obviously not the first time getting smacked for the bank.
Based upon the pleadings in the record and the evidence presented at the hearing, it was obvious that Bank of America was well aware that the debtors not only filed for bankruptcy protection, but that they had received a copy of the discharge as well. Post-Discharge, the debtors received approximately thirty-eight (38) phone calls. The testimony at trial was that agents of Bank of America stated that they didn’t really care about the bankruptcy and that they would keep calling until the computer system was updated.
Debtor’s attorney sent several letters demanding that the calls stop; however, these letters fell on deaf ears. The Debtors moved to re-open the case and requested sanctions. During the hearing, Judge Briskman took evidence on the debtor’s damages and the amount of attorney’s fees involved in bringing these actions. The best part of the opinion for me was how the Judge stated that each phone call was a violation of the discharge injunction. It was like music to my ears.
Judge Briskman found that Bank of America willfully and intentionally violated the discharge injunction of 11 U.S.C. 524. He went even further to find that it’s conduct was vexatious, wanton and oppressive. Along those lines, the Judge cited a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case to state that medical evidence is not required to prove emotional distress when the emotional distress is caused by conduct which is extreme or egregious.
Michael A. Cibik is a partner at the Philadelphia law firm of Cibik & Cataldo, P.C. He is one of the few attorneys in the Philadelphia area certified by the American Bankruptcy Board.
If you or someone you know is having financial problems, stop worrying and call Michael at (215) 735-1060 for a free consultation.
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