United States District Court, Western District of Louisiana, Shreveport
HELEN C. ALLEN, ET AL.
C & H DISTRIBUTORS, LLC, ET AL.
HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
S. MAURICE HICKS, JR; UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Before the Court is a Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment (Record Document 152) filed on behalf of Defendants C&H Distributors, LLC (“C&H”), K America Corporation (“K America”), Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (“Travelers”), Ergocraft Contract Solutions (“ECS”), and Great American Insurance Company (“Great American”). Defendants seek dismissal of the claims of Plaintiffs Helen and Robert Allen (“the Allens”) on the ground of judicial estoppel. See id. The Allens opposed the motion and filed a supplemental affidavit. See Record Documents 155 & 177. For the reasons which follow, the Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED based on the doctrine of judicial estoppel without prejudice to the rights of a Chapter 7 trustee to pursue the claims if the Allens’ bankruptcy case is reopened and converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation.
The Allens filed this action on October 21, 2010 seeking damages for injuries Helen Allen allegedly suffered on October 21, 2009 when a stool on which she was sitting broke and caused her to fall. The Allens allege that a number of defendants were involved in manufacturing the allegedly defective stool, and they seek damages from them under the Louisiana Products Liability Act.
The Allens filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy on July 14, 2009. Their original Chapter 13 plan was confirmed on September 29, 2009. The Chapter 13 plan was administered by the Bankruptcy Court for almost 4 years. During such time, the Allens received relief from creditors, paying $150 per month toward multiple debts.
The Allens never disclosed the existence of this personal injury suit to the Bankruptcy Court. They filed amendments to their bankruptcy plan multiple times while this suit was pending. Such amendments occurred on January 11, 2011; December 19, 2011; and January 17, 2013. None of these amendments disclosed this suit to the Bankruptcy Court.
In June 2013, the Allens filed for discharge. The Bankruptcy Court entered a Final Decree in April 2014, finding that the estate has been fully administered and relieving the trustee from further duties. The Bankruptcy Court then closed the Chapter 13 case without a discharge, noting that the Allens failed to file a Financial Management Course Certificate proving compliance with the required instructional course concerning personal financial management. This failure precluded any further relief or discharge.
On June 12, 2014, the Allens responded to written discovery propounded in the case by C&H, K America, and Travelers. In response to C&H’s Interrogatory Number 21, the Allens denied having ever filed for bankruptcy. In response to C&H’s Interrogatory Number 11, which concerned their involvement in any other legal proceeding, the Allens did not disclose their bankruptcy. The Allens did not disclose the bankruptcy in their May 30, 2014 response to Ergocraft’s Interrogatory Number 13 and Request for Production M, both of which concerned the Allens’ involvement in other legal proceedings.
The bench trial in this matter was set for September 15, 2014. See Record Document 139. On September 2, 2014, Defendants filed a Joint Motion for Leave to File Late Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment. See Record Document 150. Defendants indicated that they had learned on August 24, 2014 that the Allens had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. See id. The Court upset the bench trial, granted leave, and the Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment is now before the Court. See Record Documents 151 & 152.
I. Summary Judgment Standard.
Summary judgment is proper pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Quality Infusion Care, Inc. v. Health Care Serv. Corp., 628 F.3d 725, 728 (5th Cir.2010). “Rule 56[(a)] mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Patrick v. Ridge, 394 F.3d 311, 315 (5th Cir.2004).
“A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of ...