THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – In a landmark victory for a client of Toledo attorney Norman Abood, the Federal District Court in the Third Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix), has for the first time reversed a U.S. Bankruptcy Court decision involving the power of the Court to surcharge a debtor’s exempt property.
“It took nearly five years for the Court to rule on this case, so it’s gratifying for my client – and certainly me – that we came out victorious,” Abood said. “The fact that it’s the first time a Court in the U. S. Third Circuit has made a decision of this type makes it even more satisfying.”
The case involved Abood client Jeffrey Prosser’s bankruptcy filing in 2006. At one time, Prosser’s companies, valued at over $1 billion, provided telephone, cable, newspaper and internet services to the Virgin Islands, in the south of France, other Caribbean and West African countries. Among the myriad of legal issues yet to be resolved that pitted Prosser against the Court appointed Trustee was a dispute over who was going to pay over $1 million in costs associated with the loss of wine owned by the Prossers.
In 2013, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court ruled that the Prossers owed the Bankruptcy Estate $528,086 to reimburse it for legal fees and court costs associated with the disappearance and spoiling of around half of Prossers’ wine collection in their St. Thomas and Palm Beach homes, wines that had been inventoried in 2008. The Court also sanctioned the Prossers an additional $419,135.59 for dissipation in the value of the wines. The Bankruptcy Court then assessed those costs as charges against Mr. Prosser’s exempt real property on St. Croix. The Court then held that the Trustee could seize title to Prossers’ real estate and sell it to pay the legal fees and sanctions awards. Prosser argued that the real property, being exempt, was not a part of the bankruptcy estate and thus it was beyond the power of the court to impose any surcharges on that property
Aiding Prosser’s case was a 2014 United States Supreme Court decision. In Law v. Siegel, the High Court ruled that the Bankruptcy Court could not require a portion of a homeowner’s equity in his home to pay the court-appointed trustee’s legal fees because that court had determined that equity was exempt.
In ruling for Mr. Prosser, Chief Judge Wilma A. Lewis, echoing and accepting the High Court’s dictain Law v. Siegel, wrote: “This Court’s ruling means……a bankruptcy court cannot use the sale of exempt property to pay damages to the estate.”Read more
BLAIR, Nebraska – A Washington County, Nebraska District Court has ruled in favor of Total Industrial Plant Services, Inc. [TIPS] in its suit against a general contractor and two other plaintiffs which TIPS said neglected to pay for work performed on a construction project.
“It’s very difficult for a visiting attorney with no connection to the local court system to win a case,” TIPS attorney Norman Abood said. “I’m gratified we won, and especially gratified my client will be compensated for the money owed to them.”
TIPS had been hired by purchase order as a subcontractor by general contractor Welco Services, Inc. of McPherson, Kan., to upgrade a Novozymes enzymes plant in Blair, Neb. on land owned by Cargill. After TIPS completed their initial work and submitted invoices in fall, 2011, Welco declined to pay, claiming TIPS failed to complete the services detailed in Welco’s purchase order. TIPS continued its work, and additional work requested verbally and through change orders but, after still not receiving payment from Welco, left the jobsite in spring 2012, having completed 60% of the purchase order and significant other work requested on-the-job and through change orders.
After TIPS filed suit, Welco countersued, seeking payment for having to pay another subcontractor for the work it said TIPS failed to complete.
After a four-day trial, Judge John Samson ruled on Aug. 5, 2015 for TIPS and dismissed Welco’s counter suit. He ordered Welco to pay TIPS $579,241.68 of which Cargill and Novozymes were ordered to pay $194,683.32 within 20 days as a condition of releasing the construction lien filed against the $500 million Cargill/Novozymes property. If not paid within 20 days, Judge Samson ordered the sheriff immediately proceed with foreclosure sale.
In explaining his decision, Judge Samson said TIPS’ documentation and testimony were credible while Welco’s was not. A primary issue throughout the case was the credibility of Welco’s president/part owner and project manager. His testimony on almost every issue was rebutted by e-mails and related business and contract documents.
Abood said he was pleased by not surprised by the verdict, as he and TIPS were well-prepared for the hearing.
“Through orderly presentation of hundreds of exhibits we were able to convince the court that Welco’s testimony was not to be believed. As a result, we obtained a fair and significant award for our client.”Read more
TOLEDO, Ohio – The surprising March 16 announcement by 24-year-old Chris Borland, star linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, that he will retire after one season in the National Football League because he fears long-term health issues could impact the future of the country’s most popular spectator sport, according to Toledo attorney Norman Abood.
“It’s the beginning of a trend that could possibly decrease the popularity of the sport,” Abood said.
Abood’s concern involves his participation in a class action suit against the NFL by more than 20,000 former players related to potential debilitating neurological health issues connected to multiple concussions suffered during their playing days. He is representing five players: Antwaan Randle El, Ray Buchanan, Jeremy Bridges, Dante Wesley and Damon Washington.
The case currently is being debated in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, where Judge Anita Brody last year preliminarily approved a NFL settlement offer of $765 million but asked both sides to expand and amend some of the settlement terms.
Abood believes the Borland announcement – and the retirement announcements earlier this year of several other players still in their 20s – raises another issue that needs to be considered before the lawsuit is settled.
“The settlement calls for payments to be made for 65 years. A significant number of players are still in their 30s and 40s and may not need help for 20 or 30 years. But there’s no guarantee the NFL will be a profitable entity in 20 or 30 years,” he said.
Abood cited the decline in participation in youth football across the country, as parents have become alarmed by widely publicized cases of former players committing suicide who were later discovered to have suffered from brain damage related to concussions suffered during their playing days.
Abood also objects to the exclusion in the settlement of families of deceased players being compensated even if the players are diagnosed with brain damage after they have died.
“That to me and a number of the other attorneys is the biggest hole in the current settlement,” he said.
The case as garnered significant attention because of the popularity of the sport – it generates $10 billion in income annually – and the alarming demise of some of the game’s most popular players after post-mortem tests revealed brain damage. While critics of the suit say players knew in advance they were signing up for a dangerous sport that could cause long-term health problems, Abood says the argument is severely flawed.
“The NFL conducted studies that showed the detrimental effects of multiple concussions, but they lied about the results. That’s why this is in fact a fraud case. These players and their families deserve a just result because the potential long-term health implications are devastating,” he said.
For more information:
Norman Abood  724-3700