Thomas v Ginter Tex Ct Appeals Houston 2014 - Judicial Estoppel bars suit if didn't disclose it in chapter 13 bankruptcy

J Thomas Black
Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization

In this case Lavine Thomas filed chapter 13, but failed to disclose that she had a claim against some other parties for fraud, and various tort and contract claims. The defendants counterclaimed, and finally the plaintiff disclosed that she had filed bankruptcy by filing a suggestion of bankruptcy in the state court.  Thomas v. Ginter, Tex. Court of Appeals, 1st District 2014.

After her chapter 13 was complete and discharged, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, saying that since Thomas did not disclose her claims against them in the bankruptcy schedules, her claims were barred. The trial court agreed, and granted the summary judgment. Thomas then went back to Bankruptcy Court, reopened the bankruptcy, listed the claims, and obtained a court order that stated:

"the cause of action known as Cause No. 2008-00885 in the 125th District Court of Harris County, Texas is hereby listed as an asset in the case." The order further stated that "the failure of the Debtor to list the lawsuit among the assets of her estate at the time the bankruptcy was filed was an inadvertent omission. The Debtor and Debtor's counsel discussed the state suit with counsel for the trustee at the creditors' meeting."

The Houston appeals court affirmed the trial court, saying that judicial estoppel barred the plaintiff's claims. In short, you must disclose all of your contingent claims or causes of action to a bankruptcy court, or your claims will be barred.