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MUST I DISCLOSE ALL LEGAL CLAIMS AND LAWSUITS?

Do I have to list legal claims or lawsuits in my bankruptcy papers?

Yes.  Big time, yes!

You have to identify all legal claims or lawsuits.  

For example,  automobile accidents,  workers compensation,  medical malpractice,  employment claims,  contractual claims, negligence, harassment, civil rights and any other types.

“But, I have not received any compensation yet.”  It does not matter.  

“But I might not win the case!”  It does not matter.  You have to list it.

"So, what if I don’t list the legal claim?"

You sign bankruptcy schedules under oath.   You declared, under penalty of perjury, that you don’t have a legal claim.  Essentially, you are saying that you have no claim against the other party.   “So what?” you again might say.

Here’s what:

1. If you do file a lawsuit in the state court, the defendant can tell the judge, “Hey, the plaintiff (i.e., you, the person making a claim) did not list me on his or her bankruptcy papers.  Therefore he or she is saying there is no valid claim against me.  Judicial estoppel.  Please dismiss the case against me!”  Many courts will say, “I agree.  Case dismissed.”  

In other words, “List or get dismissed.”

And guess what? If you had simply listed the lawsuit or claim, the above dismissal would not have happened.  Further, you claim might in some cases be fully or partially exempt (legally protected) from liquidation by the bankruptcy trustee.  Or, alternatively, even if your claim is not exempt, the trustee might not be interested in liquidation anyway due to the tenuous nature of the case.

2. The defendant, if he finds out that you filed a bankruptcy, will often tell your bankruptcy trustee.  Your trustee will reopen your case.  Then, the trustee will not only liquidate the claim (use the settlement or recovery to pay creditors), but, further, you will probably end up losing your bankruptcy discharge (in other words, your debts will not be forgiven after all)!

The moral of the story: “Honesty is the best policy.”  If you are filing a bankruptcy case, list all your assets, including all legal claims and lawsuits you have against anyone for anything. Yes, even if you don’t know what the case is worth.  Even if you have not officially presented a claim yet.  Even if you are not sure whether you will ever even pursue the claim.  And even if your claim might be a weak case.

See also 1 Peter 3:10 and Proverbs 11:3.

Copyright 2011

 Disclaimer

Under the new bankruptcy laws, Christian attorney, Matthew Tozer is a debt relief agency because he helps people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.

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