Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Disclosure of Discrimination Claim - A Plaintiff's Responsibility in Bankruptcy

While a Pennsylvania district court was dealing with issues involving the conduct of counsel, see the immediately prior post, the 5th Circuit was making clear that plaintiffs in employment law cases have certain responsibilities as well. Relying on judicial estoppel, a "principle intended to protect the judicial system, not the litigants," the Court affirms summary judgment dismissing a plaintiff's Title VII claim because she failed to list it as part of her bankruptcy assets in her Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. Jethroe v. Omnova, Inc.. (5th Cir. 6/13/05) [pdf].

The Court found this a perfect example of when judicial estoppel is appropriate:

Judicial estoppel is particularly appropriate where, as here, a party fails to disclose an asset to a bankruptcy court, but then pursues a claim in a separate tribunal based on that undisclosed asset.
The position was not new ground for the Court, as it merely reaffirms a prior unpublished decision of the Court, Kamont v. West, 83 Fed. Appx. 1, 3 (5th Cir. 2003) (unpublished). bbb It does make clear that the "duty to disclose pending and unliquidated claims in a bankruptcy proceeding is an ongoing one."

To make matters worse for Ms. Jethroe, it does not appear she even got her bankruptcy relief, as the Court noted her case was "closed" for failure to comply with an agreed order.

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