Judges don’t take kindly to parties failing to disclose details, especially involving other legal activities, one plaintiff has learned. A District Court judge in Ohio has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case because the plaintiff failed to disclose this suit when she filed for bankruptcy protection.
The Background: The plaintiff owned a condo and was not paying her monthly assessments. After six months, the account was placed with the defendant. At the time the account was placed, the balance was $1,239.56. Over the course of the next six months, the balance increased to $4,336.98.
- In 2023, the plaintiff filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, and failed to disclose her suit against the defendant for five months, informing the bankruptcy court only after her omission was revealed in this case. She had filed her suit against the defendant back in 2021, alleging the defendant violated Sections 1692e and 1692f of the FDCPA.
- Following discovery, both sides filed motions for summary judgment.
The Ruling: Regardless of the merits of either party’s arguments, Judge Susan J. Dlott of the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio is bound by the doctrine of judicial estoppel. That precludes a party in a lawsuit from taking a position in a case that is contrary to a position it has taken in earlier legal proceedings.
- In this case, because the plaintiff failed to disclose this lawsuit during her bankruptcy proceedings, she is unable to pursue the FDCPA lawsuit.
- “It is not plausible that [the plaintiff’s] non-disclosure of this lawsuit was inadvertent or the result of forgetfulness,” Judge Dlott wrote. She “was represented by different legal counsel in both suits. She was actively participating in this litigation — submitting discovery responses in April 2023 and a sworn Declaration in July 2023 — at the same time she sought bankruptcy protection.”