Monday, March 19, 2007

Surrender Vehicle in Chapter 13 - Creditor allowed an unsecured deficiency balance

Northern District of Illinois - Eastern Division Chicago Bankruptcy Judge Squires recently ruled in the chapter 13 case of Linda J. Blanco, 06B 13223, where debtor tried to surrender a vehicle in full satisfaction of the claim owed. Judge Squires

The Court held that "the Debtor may not surrender the collateral in full satisfaction of the debt to the Creditor. The Creditor is entitled to seek its available state law remedies, including its right to an unsecured deficiency claim after liquidation of its collateral."

Judge Squires follows the minority argument in other jurisdictions, but it is also supported by fellow Chicago Bankruptcy Judge Schmetterer. This argument states that that when the collateral is surrendered, "the bankruptcy estate no longer has an interest in the collateral for purposes of § 506." Wherefore, the “hanging paragraph” does not preclude the creditor from claiming an allowed unsecured deficiency claim under § 502.

Judge Squires continued:
"Judge Schmetterer in the Morales case followed Judge Shefferly’s logic in Particka, and he aptly explained the interplay between § 506(a) and § 1325(a)(5)(C):

if a debtor surrenders the vehicle, the interests of parties in the collateral and the impact of § 506 changes. Section 506(a) applies only to “an allowed claim of a creditor secured by a lien on property in which the estate has an interest. . . .” 11 U.S.C. § 506(a). If a confirmed Chapter 13 plan provides for surrender of a vehicle under § 1325(a)(5)(C), the estate no longer has an interest in the vehicle. . . . When . . . . the debtor surrenders the vehicle and the estate no longer has an interest in the property that secures a claim, there is no reason to use the valuation process provided in § 506 to determine the amount of the allowed secured claim. Rather, once the vehicle is surrendered to the creditor pursuant to § 1325(a)(5)(C), the value of the creditor’s secured claim is determined under state law, Illinois U.C.C., 810 ILCS 5/9-610-624. "