September 06, 2011 Articles

Asserting and Defending Class Actions in Bankruptcy

Claimants in a bankruptcy must file proofs of claim to participate in a reorganization and obtain any consideration from the estate.

By Angela C. Zambrano and Margaret Hope Allen – September 6, 2011

Under chapter 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code), claimants in a bankruptcy must file proofs of claim to participate in a reorganization and obtain any consideration from the estate. See Bankruptcy Rule 3003(c). Because the Bankruptcy Code contains no explicit provision authorizing the filing of a class proof of claim, whether a proof of claim could be filed on behalf of a class of individuals was a hotly disputed question up until the late 1980s, when the Seventh Circuit issued the landmark decision of In re American Reserve Co., 840 F.2d 487 (7th Cir. 1988) (Easterbrook, J.). As of the late 1980s, the majority of courts to consider the question did not allow class proofs of claim. See In re Standard Metals, 817 F.2d 625 (10th Cir. 1987), vacated and rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Sheftelman v. Standard Metals Corp., 839 F.2d 1383 (1987), cert. dismissed,488 U.S. 881, 109 S. Ct. 201, 102 L. Ed. 2d 171 (1988); In re Allegheny Int'l, Inc., 94 B.R. 877 (Bankr. W.D. Pa. 1988); In re Great W. Cities, Inc., 88 B.R. 109, 112 (Bankr. N.D. Tex. 1988); In re Vestra Indus., Inc., 82 B.R. 21, 22 (Bankr. S.C. 1987); In re Elec. Theatre Restaurants Corp., 57 B.R. 147 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 1986); In re Cont'l Airlines Corp., 64 B.R. 874, 880 (Bankr. S.D. Tex. 1986); In re Computer Devices, Inc., 51 B.R. 471 (Bankr. D. Mass. 1985); In re Johns-Manville Corp., 53 B.R. 346 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 1985); In re Baldwin-United Corp., 52 B.R. 146, 147 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 1985); In re Shulman Transp. Enters., Inc., 21 B.R. 548 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 1982), aff'd, 33 B.R. 383 (S.D.N.Y. 1983), aff'd,744 F.2d 293 (2d Cir. 1984); In re Soc'y of the Divine Savior, 15 Fed. R. Serv. 2d 294 (E.D. Wis. 1971). See also Secs. & Exch. Comm'n v. Aberdeen Secs. Co., 480 F.2d 1121, 1128 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1111, 94 S. Ct. 841, 38 L. Ed. 2d 738 (1973) (affirming refusal to treat individual claims as part of a class action in a proceeding under old Bankruptcy Act and Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970, 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 78 et seq.); In re Stirling Homex Corp., 579 F.2d 206, 209 n.5 (2d Cir. 1978), cert. denied sub nom. Jezarian v. Raichle, 439 U.S. 1074, 99 S. Ct. 847, 59 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1979) (noting but not reaching district court's disallowance of bankruptcy claims to the extent made on behalf of class of claimants); In re Grocerland Coop., Inc., 32 B.R. 427 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 1983) (dicta); In re Cartridge Television, Inc., 535 F.2d 1388 (2d Cir. 1976) (mooting bankruptcy court's ruling against class claim); In re U.S. Truck Co., Inc., 89 B.R. 618, 623 n.3 (E.D. Mich. 1988) (dicta); In re The Woodmoor Corp., 4 B.R. 186 (Bankr. D. Colo. 1980) (dicta).

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