April 13, 2024

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Harley Davidson Fined 40K For BK Stay Violation

Bankruptcy triggers the automatic stay – a command, not a suggestion, that collection activity cease.  This is common knowledge, but every once in a while a case comes along that merits sharing as a reminder of what happens when lenders ignore the Bankruptcy Code.

In May 2018, Jenny Lynn Edwards bought a 2003 Harley-Davidson from B&E Transport for $10,000.  She put $2,500 down and financed the balance. The motorcycle was her only source of transportation.  On Halloween 2018, she filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition.  When she filed, she was current on her payments to B&E.  She listed B&E as a creditor in her schedules and her plan proposed to pay B&E in full with interest.

No lender likes to see their borrower file bankruptcy, but this should have appeared like a reasonable way for B&E to get repaid.  Fast forward one year, and B&E now owes Ms. Edwards almost $40,000.  How did B&E go from a secured creditor with a current loan and a path to repayment to a judgment debtor?  By engaging in a spectacular array of stay violations and disregard for the Code and the Court.  Let us count the ways:

  • B&E repossessed the motorcycle on November 2, 2018 – two days after the bankruptcy filing and even though Ms. Edwards was current on her payments. B&E then accelerated the note and demanded full payment.
  • B&E never sought relief from the automatic stay.
  • Counsel for Ms. Edwards and Ms. Edwards’ husband communicated with B&E, told B&E about the bankruptcy and the stay violation and demanded B&E return the motorcycle. B&E refused, doubling down on their improper behavior and, as the Court stated, making “a bad situation worse.”
  • Edwards then sued B&E for damages for the automatic stay violation. B&E ignored the lawsuit and kept the motorcycle, apparently deciding they would ignore the Bankruptcy Code and the Bankruptcy Court.

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