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Opinions

The Western District of Wisconsin offers a database of opinions for the years 1986 to present, listed by year and judge. For a more detailed search, enter a keyword, statute, rule or case number in the search box above.

Opinions are also available on the Government Printing Office website for Appellate, District and Bankruptcy cases. The content of this collection dates back to April 2004, though searchable electronic holdings for some courts may be incomplete for this earlier time period.

For a direct link to the Western Wisconsin Bankruptcy Court on-line opinions, visit this link.

Available Decisions:

  • Chief Judge Catherine J. Furay -- 2013 - present
  • Judge William V. Altenberger -- 2016 - present
  • Judge Brett H. Ludwig -- 2017 - present
  • Judge Thomas M. Lynch -- 2018 - present
  • Judge Katherine M. Perhach -- 2020 - present
  • Judge Robert D. Martin (retired) -- 1990 - 2016
  • Judge Thomas S. Utschig (retired) -- 1986 - 2012

Chief Judge Catherine J. Furay

Case Summary:
Plaintiffs sought a determination that the debt owed to them is nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A). Debtor moved to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12, made applicable by Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7012. He asserted the complaint failed to state a cause of action and the Plaintiffs were collaterally estopped.  The Debtor also filed various affidavits. Plaintiffs responded to the motion with supporting affidavits. The submission of affidavits and documents converted the motion to dismiss to a summary judgment motion (pursuant to Fed. R. Bankr. P. 56, made applicable by Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7056). The Court further determined collateral estoppel did not apply because the state court did not address Plaintiffs’ causes of action for fraud and misrepresentation. The motion was denied.

Statute/Rule References:
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c); Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7012 -- Judgment on the Pleadings
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7056 -- Summary Judgment

Key Terms:
Collateral Estoppel
Conversion of Motion to Dismiss
Issue Preclusion
Summary Judgment


Case Summary:
Debtors filed a motion for contempt and sanctions against University of Wisconsin-Stout for violating the final discharge order in their Chapter 7. The parties disagreed whether the unpaid tuition had been discharged. The District Court found the unpaid tuition was not a qualified educational loan and remanded for further findings. Creditor appealed to the Seventh Circuit, but the appeal was dismissed as an appeal of an interlocutory order and thus not final. Bound by the decision of the District Court, the Court determined that, under Taggart, sanctions could not be awarded because the offending creditor had a fair ground of doubt to conclude that their conduct was not barred by the discharge injunction. The Court also concluded that even if sanctions were appropriate, the Debtors would only be entitled to the return of the seized tax refund because there was no indication on the record what other damages Debtors may have incurred, and the Creditor was immune from an award of punitive damages.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 105(a) -- Contempt Power
11 U.S.C. § 106 -- Sovereign Immunity
11 U.S.C. § 524(a) -- Discharge Injunction

Key Terms:
Contempt
Discharge Injunction
Sanctions
Taggart Standard


Case Summary:
Chapter 12 Trustee filed a motion to dismiss the Debtors’ case due to the Debtors’ insufficient income from farming operations to satisfy Chapter 12 eligibility requirements. Debtors’ gross farm income in 2019 was $47,650. Their farm income has two components: (1) cattle sales and breeding ($14,650), and horse boarding ($33,000). While recognizing the recent evolutions of farming and the agriculture industry, the Court determined the Debtors’ horse boarding operation was not a farming operation because the Debtors did not bear the risks traditionally associated with farming activity. Debtors did not raise the horses or sell them. They simply boarded horses for other individuals and took care of neglected horses through their non-profit entity that is funded through donations and fundraising events. Debtors’ 2019 farm income was insufficient to meet the Chapter 12 eligibility requirements. Debtors’ case was dismissed.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 101(18) -- Definition of Family Farmer
11 U.S.C. § 101(21) -- Definition of Farming Operation
11 U.S.C. § 109(f) -- Chapter 12 Eligibility

Key Terms:
Custom Framing
Farming Operation
Horse Boading


Case Summary:
Plaintiffs contracted with Defendant’s business entity to install solar panels. Each Plaintiff made advance payments of $77,083.50 between July and September 2017. However, the solar panels were not installed as promised and the Plaintiffs did not receive refunds. Plaintiffs motioned for summary judgment on their claims. The Court took judicial notice of its own prior litigation during the United States Trustee’s trial denying the Defendant a discharge under 11 U.S.C. §§ 727(a)(3) and (a)(5) in September 2019. The Court also took judicial notice of a Minnesota State Court proceeding involving the Defendant and his business entity. Here, the Court determined there was no genuine dispute as to any material fact that the debt owed to the Plaintiffs, in the total amount of $124,618.32, was exempted from discharge under sections 523(a)(2)(A) and 523(a)(4). The facts and evidence of this case resembled the Defendant’s troubling business practices established through the United States Trustee’s trial. Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment was granted.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A) -- Nondischargeability – False Pretenses, False Representation, or Fraud
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(4) -- Nondischargeability - Embezzlement
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7056 -- Summary Judgment
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) -- Summary Judgment

Key Terms:
Collateral Estoppel
Judicial Notice
Nondischargeability
Res Judicata
Summary Judgment


Case Summary:
Plaintiff filed this adversary proceeding to recover money from the Debtors for alleged damages to collateral under state law causes of action. Plaintiff had received a judgment of strict foreclosure in state court and discovered damages to the property after retaking possession. Plaintiff named the Debtors’ insurer as a co-defendant. The insurer moved for Judgment on the Pleadings to dismiss the claims asserted against it. The Court granted the motion because the Plaintiff’s allegations, as pled and asserted in its amended complaint, described intentional damages by the Debtors that did not trigger an initial grant of coverage under the insurance policy. The Court examined the substance of the allegations and determined that it was not bound to blindly accept the “negligence” labels attached to the Plaintiff’s claims. The Court also determined that the Plaintiff’s first-party property damage claim was barred by the twelve-month statute of limitations under Wis. Stat. § 631.83(1)(a). The Court’s decision made no findings about the merits of the Plaintiff’s adversary action against the Debtors.

Rule References:
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7012(b) -- Judgment on the Pleadings
Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c)-- Form of Pleadings
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) -- Judgment on the Pleadings
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d) -- Presenting Matters Outside of Pleadings

Key Terms:
Facial Plausibility
Initial Grant of Insurance Coverage
Judgment on the Pleadings


Case Summary:
Debtor was a licensed attorney in Wisconsin and the subject of multiple professional disciplinary proceedings brought by the OLR. Debtor was disciplined by the State Supreme Court in 2009 and was ordered to pay the OLR the costs of his disciplinary proceeding in the amount of $12,500.64. Debtor eventually filed bankruptcy and discharged this debt. Debtor petitioned to reinstate his law license, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to act on the reinstatement petition until the dischargeability status of the disciplinary costs were determined by this Court. Debtor reopened his bankruptcy case and filed an adversary proceeding to determine that his debt was not excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(7). Both the Debtor and the OLR agreed that summary judgment was appropriate to resolve this adversary. The Court found that the disciplinary costs were a fine or forfeiture that did not compensate the OLR for actual pecuniary loss. There was no genuine dispute as to any material fact that the debt owed to the OLR was excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(7). The Court entered summary judgment in favor of the OLR. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprived the Court of subject matter jurisdiction over the Debtor’s constitutional claim under the Eight Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. 

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(7) -- Nondischargeability - Fines/Penalties/Forfeitures
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7056 -- Summary Judgment
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) -- Summary Judgment

Key Terms:
Attorney Disciplinary Costs
Nondischargeable Debt
Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
Subject Matter Jurisdiction


Case Summary:
Debtor was the sole member and owner of a Wisconsin Limited Liability Company. The LLC was indebted to a creditor bank by virtue of three commercial loans (“Notes”) in the amount of $620,121.97. The Notes were secured by all the LLC’s assets. Debtor personally guaranteed the LLC’s repayment through a Commercial Guaranty. The LLC defaulted under the Notes. Creditor filed a lawsuit against the LLC and the Debtor in Dane County Circuit Court seeking the appointment of a receiver under Wis. Stat. Ch. 128. On the morning of the receivership hearing, Debtor dissolved the LLC and transferred all assets and debts of the LLC to himself. Debtor filed his personal Chapter 13 petition on the same day. Creditor bank moved to dismiss the bankruptcy case because the Debtor’s noncontingent, liquidated unsecured claims exceeded the statutory amount of $419,275 set forth in section 109(e). Assuming the attempted transfer of assets was valid, the Court found that the Debtor, as the new owner of the assets, now owned assets subject to the creditor’s liens. As the guarantor of the Notes, Debtor’s liability to creditor bank remained an unsecured obligation. The case was dismissed under section 109(e) of the Code.

Statute References:
11 U.S.C. § 109(e) -- Chapter 13 Eligibility
11 U.S.C. § 1307(c) -- Conversion or Dismissal

Key Terms:
Debt Limit
Dismissal
Ineligible
LLC Asset Transfer
Unsecured Debt


Case Summary:
Plaintiff filed this adversary proceeding to recover money from the Debtors for alleged damages to collateral under state law causes of action. Plaintiff had received a judgment of strict foreclosure in state court and discovered damages to the property after retaking possession. Plaintiff named the Debtors’ insurer as a co-defendant. Debtors filed a Motion to Abstain and Remand or, in the Alternative, to Dismiss the Adversary Proceeding. Debtors’ insurer and the Plaintiff consented to this Court’s jurisdiction. Debtors’ Motion and arguments raised four issues: (1) whether the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under Rooker-Feldman; (2) whether the Court must abstain under mandatory abstention; (3) whether the court should abstain under permissive abstention; and (4) whether the Court should dismiss the adversary proceeding. The Court’s decision made no findings about the merits of the Plaintiff’s adversary action. The Court found that: (1) it does not lack subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s damage, negligence, conversion, and statutory theft claims; (2) it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s delinquent real estate tax claim; (3) mandatory abstention is not required; (4) permissive abstention is not appropriate; (5) Plaintiff’s complaint states claims sufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss except for its delinquent real estate tax claim. The Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s delinquent real estate tax claim.

Statute/Rule References:
28 U.S.C. § 1334
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7012(b)(6), adopting Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) -- Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted

Key Terms:
Mandatory Abstention
Permissive Abstention 
Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
Subject Matter Jurisdiction


Case Summary:
Plaintiff and Defendant were involved in a romantic relationship that ended in 2012. They lived together for a period time but were never married. The couple held several joint checking and business accounts with the Plaintiff making a substantial portion of the deposits. Defendant regularly withdrew sums from the joint accounts to pay the Plaintiff’s personal bills and expenses. However, the Plaintiff’s adversary complaint accuses the Defendant of intentionally taking and retaining money that did not belong to her. Plaintiff objects to discharge under 11 U.S.C. §§ 523(a)(2), (a)(4), and (a)(6). Defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings seeking a determination that she should not be denied a discharge. Defendant’s motion asserts she did not need the Plaintiff’s permission to access funds and that it is impossible to convert or misappropriate funds that also belonged to her under Wisconsin’s joint bank account laws. The Court denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings because the Plaintiff’s adversary complaint states claims that have facial plausibility. There is a question of actual ownership over the funds since the former couple were never married. There is also a question of whether the Plaintiff had donative intent with respect to the funds. The Court made no findings about the merits of the Plaintiff’s adversary action. This decision was merely a finding that the Plaintiff’s complaint pleads facts that support his claims for relief. Both parties will have an opportunity to present their case at trial.

State/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A) -- Nondischargeability - False Pretenses, False Representation, or Fraud
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(4) -- Nondischargeability - Fraud or Defalcation While Acting in a Fiduciary Capacity, Embezzlement, or Larceny
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6) -- Nondischargeability - Willful and Malicious Injury
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7012(b) -- Judgment on the Pleadings
Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c) -- Form of Pleadings -- Adoption by Reference; Exhibits
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) -- Judgment on the Pleadings

Key Terms:
Facial Plausibility
Judgment on the Pleadings
Nondischargeability
Wisconsin Joint Bank Accounts


Case Summary:
Plaintiff creditor contracted with Defendant’s business entity to install solar panels for his residence. Plaintiff made a $7,200 down payment for the installations. However, the solar panels were not installed as promised and the Plaintiff did not receive a refund. Plaintiff motioned for summary judgment on his claims. The Court took judicial notice of its own prior litigation during the United States Trustee’s trial denying the Defendant a discharge under 11 U.S.C. §§ 727(a)(3) and (a)(5) in September 2019. Here, the Court determined there was no genuine dispute as to any material fact that the debt owed to the Plaintiff was exempted from discharge under sections 523(a)(2)(A) and 523(a)(6). The facts and evidence of this case resembled the Defendant’s troubling business practices established through the United States Trustee’s trial. Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment was granted.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A) -- Nondischargeability - False Pretenses, False Representation, or Fraud
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(B) -- Use of a Statement in Writing
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6) -- Nondischargeability - Willful and Malicious Injury
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7056 -- Summary Judgment
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b) -- General Rules of Pleading - Defenses; Admissions and Denials
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) -- Summary Judgment

Key Terms:
Judicial Notice
Nondischargeable Debt
Summary Judgment


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