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Disputes and Litigation Against Your Business Not Stopped by Your Personal Bankruptcy Filing

Posted by Kevin on December 13, 2014 under Bankruptcy Blog | Comments are off for this article

Careful: if your business is not a sole proprietorship, legal disputes against your business are not “stayed” by your personal bankruptcy’s “automatic stay.”

This series of blogs has been about the benefits of filing a bankruptcy case when closing down your business. Through the power of the “automatic stay”— any ongoing lawsuit against you or your property must stop.  But there are some important exceptions to this, situations in which the automatic stay would not apply

Bankruptcy and its automatic stay protect the “person” filing bankruptcy and his, her, or its assets. Other “persons” are generally NOT protected. The issue is whether you and your business are considered to be the same or separate “persons” for this purpose.

If your business is a sole proprietorship, the law considers you and your business to be the same “person.” So a lawsuit against the business would be stopped by your personal bankruptcy filing. But what if your business was set up as a corporation, a limited liability company (LLC), or a partnership, and you are dealing with a lawsuit against both you and the business?

Disputes Against Your Corporation, LLC, or Partnership

  • If your business was set up as a corporation or LLC and it is still operating when you file a personal bankruptcy, that filing does not “stay” any litigation against the corporation because it is a separate legal entity, a separate “person.” To the extent the dispute and/or lawsuit is against you personally, that portion would be stayed. But this may not help much if the lawsuit continues to disrupt and threaten your business.
  • Even if your business in the form of a corporation or LLC is no longer operating, but itself still owns some assets, those assets are not protected by your personal bankruptcy filing. This includes assets that the business might own outright—such as receivables that it was waiting to receive, or business assets that are the collateral on business loans—such as vehicles or equipment.
  • If your business is or was a formal or informal partnership, the partnership’s creditors or adversaries would very likely be able to continue pursuing the partnership and its assets, as well as pursuing your partner and his or her assets, regardless of your personal bankruptcy filing. That’s because partners are generally jointly liable for the obligations of a partnership, and your partner and the partnership itself are both “persons” separate from you. So you have the same problem just outlined above as to partnership assets.

That leads to the main lesson here. If your business legally qualifies as a separate “person,” and has assets that need to be protected, it may need to file its own separate bankruptcy.  Since we are focusing on closing down your business in this series of blogs, the filing would be under Chapter 7.

You should really consult with a bankruptcy lawyer on these issues.

A Chapter 7 “Straight Bankruptcy” Can . . . Help You Avoid or Escape Litigation When Closing Down Your Business

Posted by Kevin on November 29, 2014 under Bankruptcy Blog | Comments are off for this article

Ongoing litigation, or the threat of it, against you and/or your business, usually dies with your bankruptcy filing.


A Chapter 7 case can help by:

  • immediately stopping most litigation against you and/or your business, at least temporarily;
  • permanently stopping most litigation by legally discharging the disputed claim; and
  • providing strong disincentives for your adversary to keep pursuing you after your bankruptcy filing.


This series of blogs is about the benefits of filing a bankruptcy case when closing down your business. The reality is that businesses are often closed as a consequence of litigation, or the threat of litigation, against the business or business owner. These disputes can take every possible form—by way of example, simple collection actions by creditors, contractual disputes with customers, enforcement action by governmental regulators, and fights with other business owners or investors. A bankruptcy often becomes necessary when either the opposing party wins a judgment against the business and/or the owner, or the business runs out of money to pay the attorney fees and other costs of litigation. The business is often already on the ropes, and the judgment, or just the financial and emotional costs of the lawsuit, or sometimes even just the threat of one is enough to persuade the business owner to throw in the towel and close down the business.

The question is: what will happen to the dispute and/or litigation against you and/or the business?

Litigation Immediately Stopped by the “Automatic Stay”

The automatic stay legally stops creditors from taking any new collection action against you, and from continuing any action, including litigation. It is imposed simultaneously with the filing of your bankruptcy, without a judge needing to sign an order. The automatic stay requires your adversary to at least take a pause in his efforts against you, and often persuades him to do nothing further against you.

Why Most Disputes Will End at Your Bankruptcy Filing

This immediate stopping of collection and litigation usually ends up being permanent, for a number of reasons.

Your adversary is usually trying to get you or the business to pay something, and that alleged obligation is discharged—legally written off permanently—in your Chapter 7 case.

Bankruptcy law does allow any of your creditors (including those with alleged claims of any kind) to try to object to the discharge of their debts or claims. But these objections are relatively rare, for two reasons:

1. They are difficult for a creditor to win. The legal grounds for objections are relatively narrow. Debts are assumed discharged unless the creditor can prove to the bankruptcy court that those narrow grounds are met. Instead of just proving the existence of a valid debt or claim, as in a conventional lawsuit, the creditor has to provide convincing evidence that you engaged in certain specific bad behavior, such as fraud in incurring the debt, embezzlement, larceny, fraud as a fiduciary, or intentional and malicious injury to a person or property.

2. The creditor is faced with practical indications that it is wasting its time and money to pursue you further. In filing bankruptcy, you present to the court a rather detailed set of specific information about your finances. You are able to be questioned by the creditors about those documents and about anything else relevant to the discharge of the debts. When these reveal that you genuinely have nothing worth chasing—which is almost always the case—most creditors accept that pursuing you further will do them no good.

The Exceptions:  Disputes Not Be Stopped by Your Bankruptcy Filing

There are two sets of exceptions: 1) when you are not protected by the automatic stay; and 2) when a creditor challenges the discharge of its debt or claim. These will be addressed in the next two blogs.