District Judge Lawrence Vilardo

Read Full-Text Decision

Plaintiff sought bankruptcy relief shortly after filing his 2013 suit over alleged Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) violations. He mentioned his FDCPA/FTCA action at a creditors’ meeting. Although the FDCPA/FTCA action remained pending, plaintiff received a discharge from bankruptcy court in April 2014. After his bankruptcy petition was reopened, plaintiff sought a stay so the bankruptcy estate, administered by the trustee, could be substituted as the plaintiff. In 2016 district court issued a limited stay to allow plaintiff to list the FDCPA/FTCA action as a bankruptcy estate asset, and substitute the trustee as plaintiff. The court granted plaintiff’s substitution and amendment motions. He had no reason to disclose his FDCPA/TCPA claim in writing when he declared bankruptcy a month later, especially since he told the trustee about it at the 2014 creditors’ meeting. The trustee will be substituted for plaintiff. Estopping the trustee from pursuing plaintiff’s claims would work an unfair windfall to defendant. Thus, the trustee may proceed. If he prevails, plaintiff may receive the first $6,000 of the case proceeds if the statutory exemption entitles him to that recovery.