Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

No Title VII Suit After Bankruptcy Nondisclosure

Deborah Elkins//January 29, 2013

No Title VII Suit After Bankruptcy Nondisclosure

Deborah Elkins//January 29, 2013

A plaintiff has no standing to pursue her Title VII suit alleging a sexually hostile work environment at her workplace because she did not disclose her Title VII claims during her Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding; the Newport News U.S. District Court accepts the magistrate judge’s recommendation to dismiss plaintiff’s suit against the Peninsula Airport Commission.

There are two grounds upon which this court could grant summary judgment as to plaintiff’s Title VII claims.

First, she is without standing to pursue her Title VII claims, thereby depriving this court of jurisdiction in this matter, because the Title VII claims properly belong to plaintiff’s bankruptcy estate and there is no evidence before this court that the estate abandoned such claims in any manner that would restore standing to plaintiff. Second, the doctrine of judicial estoppel bars plaintiff from pursuing her Title VII claims. The court grants summary judgment on the first ground, and alternatively, on the second ground.

Because plaintiff’s EEOC charge and related claims constitute property of the bankruptcy estate and debtors have a continuing affirmative duty to disclose such property, she was required to disclose her EEOC charge and the facts supporting such charge to the bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy trustee had exclusive standing to pursue plaintiff’s Title VII claims against defendants, regardless of her failure to disclose those claims to the bankruptcy court. The court finds plaintiff’s standing to pursue such claims was not restored by abandonment because there is nothing in the record before the bankruptcy court indicating the trustee abandoned the Title VII claims or that plaintiff sought to exempt such claims from the bankruptcy estate.

Even if plaintiff is correct that her EEOC charge would have fallen under Va. Code § 34-28.1’s exemption for personal injury actions (a question the court declines to reach), she was still required to disclose such charge and obtain an order exempting it in order to remove the EEOC charge and her corresponding Title VII claims from the bankruptcy estate. There was a process plaintiff was required to follow in order to exempt her EEOC charge and, in failing to follow that process, she left such charge and the corresponding Title VII claims in the bankruptcy estate.

Summary judgment for defendant employer.

Vanderheyden v. Peninsula Airport Comm’n (Davis) No. 4:12cv46, Jan. 2, 2013; USDC at Newport News, Va. VLW 013-3-005, 39 pp.

Verdicts & Settlements

See All Verdicts & Settlements

Opinion Digests

See All Digests