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Question about proper protocol when naming a Non-Debtor Defendant

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  • Question about proper protocol when naming a Non-Debtor Defendant

    Hello,

    I thought maybe someone on this forum could help.

    I have been named as a Defendant in an Adversary Proceeding related to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filed against a Debtor on the west cost. I am in a different state 3,000 files away from this proceeding.

    I only became aware of the bankruptcy details when I was named as a Defendant. To sum up the situation, I am considered the foremost expert in my field of expertise and am considered one of the most, if not the most, respected and honest expert in this field. The authentications and appraisals I provide are considered to be virtually the only 3rd party documents of this type universally accepted by everyone in my field. I also offer the highest level of brokerage services in this same field.

    Last year, a long time customer (one of my largest for the entire decade) communicated that he was having financial problems and brought the majority of his collection down to me for authentication, appraisal, and future sale. He then basically fell off the map and I heard very little, and ended up putting his project on hold.

    Fast forward to May of this year and I receive notice that I have been named as a Defendant in an Adversary Proceeding related to his Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Being 3,000 miles away, not in contact with him, and busy with more than I can keep up with, this is the first I hear of the situation.

    I have filed an answer indicating these facts and that the property I have is not mine and that I would upon receiving proper documentation turn said property over to its rightful owner (the estate if the court determines this to be the case).

    My question is "Did the Trustee handling this case or his attornies have any obligation to try and contact me prior to naming me as a Defendant?" A simple turnover request would have been all I would have required if I were aware of the situation. I have now spent considerable legal fees because I feel that simply being named as a 'Defendant' in a publically available court case has a potential to harm my perfect reputation. Is there any justification for filing a motion that the trustee should reimburse legal fees? Is there any motion to have my name removed from public documents?

    In addition to the legal fees, the time which I have now spent dealing with this has casued me to miss some very important deadlines which will potentially cost me tens of thousands of dollars.

    I know very little about the law, but before this situation, I would have expected a phone call or anything to ask me if I had items from another's collection in my possession. Every other defendant is an insider and I feel there was no justification for pulling me into a court case. I have been more than cooperative, continue to store these items for free, and potentially be responsible for them. I can't find similar situations to reference on Google so this seems like an unusual matter. This is what I do for a living so it is not unusual for me to have numerous collections stored regularly at one of my facilities. I have known the Debtor for years and would have had no reason to suspect he was potentially trying to hide assets.

    Should I just continue to pay legal fees, cooperate, and accept that this is just the way it is, or is there something I can do?

    Thank you very much in advance for any help which can be offered.

  • #2
    Not a lawyer myself but...

    I don't think there's any duty to contact someone before filing a lawsuit.

    But my first reaction would have been to take the initiative and contact the Trustee or his/her counsel directly before I filed a formal answer. They have legal expenses too and simply want the property. (But they may also want to see documents if they suspect you're not being truthful.) Any suit that's filed can be negotiated and settled or dropped.

    If you have no real dispute with the Trustee and are paying an attorney make sure your attorney is just trying to settle it.

    I suspect you being dragged into this is just routine procedure. Unfortunately you don't know anything about this situation and, reasonably, feel the need to have counsel. Which is expensive. Sorry you got caught up in this.
    12/2009 Stopped paying CCs; 3/10 1st suit;
    8/2010 finally served; No Asset 7 filed. 11 mos since last bal xfer
    9/22/10 60 day club; 9/24/10 report of no distr; 11/23/10 DISCHARGED

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