Summary Judgment – Plaintiff Failed To Disclose Pre-litigation Claim In Bankruptcy 

Attorneys Bill Lindsay and Chris Pickett won summary judgment for their client after learning that plaintiff failed to disclose his tort claim when he filed for bankruptcy.  The plaintiff worked for the US Post Office and filed a lawsuit in 2013 claiming that he fell through our client’s pre-cast concrete steps while delivering mail to his home in 2011.  The plaintiff claimed that the resulting spinal injury and cervical fusion surgery prevented him from returning to his job.  Plaintiff claimed nearly $300,000 in medical bills and another $300,000 in lost wages.

During a background check, we learned that plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May, 2012, and was discharged later that same year.  We obtained the bankruptcy petition and discovered that plaintiff failed to disclose his claim against our client as an asset.  Even though plaintiff had not filed his lawsuit against our client at the time he filed for bankruptcy, he was obligated to disclose the potential lawsuit as an asset.

We filed for summary judgment and argued that plaintiff was judicially estopped from pursuing the lawsuit against our client.  Plaintiff responded that judicial estoppel should not apply because his failure to disclose the potential lawsuit was an oversight.  He argued that he did not know he had a cause of action against our client, even though he had consulted with multiple attorneys.  We replied that the plaintiff need not know of the legal basis for his lawsuit, only the factual basis (i.e., that he was injured), to trigger his disclosure requirement in the bankruptcy petition. 

The court granted our motion for summary judgment, holding that all elements of judicial estoppel were present.  The court rejected plaintiff’s argument that his failure to disclose the potential lawsuit resulted from mere oversight, mistake, or inadvertence.