【破产新闻】Bankruptcy Doesn't Void Arbitration Agreements With Creditors, Federal Judge Rules

By P.J. D'Annunzio 

 

A man who sued a credit reporting agency and several banks for listing his accounts as outstanding even after declaring bankruptcy is still bound by arbitration agreements with those creditors, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a motion by defendants Citibank, Department Stores National Bank and First Premier Bank that sought to compel arbitration of plaintiff Soldon Winton’s Fair Credit Reporting Act lawsuit.

Winton filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy May 6, 2016, according to Bartle’s May 1 opinion. The following November, the court discharged his debts to his creditors.

After filing suit, the defendants moved to compel arbitration, citing their agreements with Winton. However, Winton argued that his bankruptcy voided those agreements.

“Winton’s position is not supported by the law. A bankruptcy discharge extinguishes only ‘the personal liability of the debtor,’” Bartle said, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1991 decision in Johnson v. Home State Bank. “While the personal liability for the underlying debt is discharged, a bankruptcy discharge does not render a valid arbitration agreement unenforceable.”

Bartle said Winton would have to prove that the text, legislative history or purpose of the Bankruptcy Code conflicts with the enforcement of the arbitration agreements, which he failed to do.

“In any event, all three of the arbitration clauses at issue provide that the agreements will survive termination of or any changes in the account or the relationships between Winton and the defendants, including specifically the ‘bankruptcy of [Winton].’ Thus, Winton’s argument is also defeated by the plain language of the agreements,” Bartle said.

Winton also argued that the court should deny arbitration because he would be forced to litigate on “two fronts,” one in federal court against other defendants and the other in arbitration against Citibank, DSNB and First Premier.

“Winton has failed to articulate any specific facts in support of his claim of hardship,” Bartle said. “The fact that Winton will be required to pursue his claims against different defendants in different fora is not grounds to deny the motions to compel arbitration.”

Bartle also denied Winton’s request that the defendants bear the cost of arbitration.

Brent Vullings of Vullings Law Group in Collegeville represents Winton.

“We will be filing our own motion for the court to consider,” Vullings said in an email.

Daniel McKenna of Ballard Spahr represents DSNB, Citibank and First Premier. McKenna did not respond to a request for comment.

Source:https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/2019/05/01/bankruptcy-doesnt-void-arbitration-agreements-with-creditors-federal-judge-rules/

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