United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
K. MOON DISTRICT JUDGE
Norman K. Moon Appellant Vibha Jha Buckingham
(“Buckingham”) has appealed an April 19, 2016
Order of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District
of Virginia, in which the Bankruptcy Court dismissed
Buckingham's objection to a claim made by United Bank
(“United”). The Court finds that United's
claim was wholly unsecured and thus not bound by the terms of
paragraph 11B of the bankruptcy plan. Accordingly, the Court
will affirm the judgment of the Bankruptcy Court and dismiss
the appeal with prejudice.
11, 2014, debtor Vibha Jha Buckingham filed a voluntary
Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. (Dkt. 1-2 at 1.) Buckingham
listed a property known as 37 Little Acres Road, Glastonbury,
Connecticut (the “Property”) with an assessed
value of $143, 600.00. (Id.) The property was
subject to two debts. The first was a debt to CCO Mortgage
with a value of $170, 630.00, of which $27, 030.00 was listed
as unsecured because it exceeded the value of the Property.
(Id.) The second debt was held by Rockville Bank,
the predecessor in interest to United. Rockville Bank's
entire $35, 813.00 debt was listed as unsecured.
filed an amended Chapter 13 plan on August 15, 2014.
(Id.) For the purposes of this appeal, there were
two relevant sections to the plan: paragraph 3B and paragraph
11B. Paragraph 3B, in the section for “Secured
Creditors, ” declared that debtor would surrender her
interest in the Property and provided that deficiencies
resulting from the liquidation of the Property could be paid
to creditors as unsecured claims. Amended Chapter 13 Plan at
2, In re Vibha Jha Buckingham, No. 13-61299 (Bankr.
W.D. Va. 2014) (Dkt. No. 15) [hereinafter “Bkr.
Dkt.”]. In the same column of paragraph 3B where the
plan identified the Property tied to United's claim, the
document also stated prominently: “ALSO SEE PARAGRAPH
11B.” (Id. at 3.)
[a]ny unsecured proof of claim for a deficiency which results
from the surrender and liquidation of the collateral noted in
paragraph 3.B of this plan must be filed by the earlier of
the following dates or such claim will be forever barred: (1)
within 180 days of the date of the first confirmation order
confirming a plan which provides for the surrender of said
collateral, or (2) within the time period set for the filing
of an unsecured deficiency claim as established by any order
granting relief from the automatic stay with respect to said
collateral. Said unsecured proof of claim for a deficiency
must include appropriate documentation establishing that the
collateral surrendered has been liquidated, and the proceeds
applied, in accordance with applicable state law.
November 3, 2014, the Bankruptcy Court approved the amended
plan containing paragraphs 3B and 11B. (Dkt. 1-2 at 2.) On
November 11, 2014, United filed a proof of claim for $36,
971.53, or the entirety of the debt owed to it.
(Id.) United identified the basis of the claim as
“Money Loaned (had [mortgage] - no equity).”
(Id.) In Box 4 of the proof of claim form, United
left the “Amount of Secured Claim” space blank
while entering the full $36, 971.53 amount in the
“Amount Unsecured” space. (Id.) United
also attached a “Mortgage Proof of Claim
Attachment” on which it stated that “Cure amount
not provided; property being abandoned by debtor; claim is
wholly unsecured.” (Id.)
2, 2015, the 180 day deadline under paragraph 11B terminated
with United having filed only its November 11 proof of claim.
On August 5, 2015, the Property was surrendered to the first
mortgage holder. (Dkt. 5 at 13.) Upon the subsequent request
of the Trustee administering the bankruptcy, United provided
documentation of the transfer in support of its claim.
(Id. at 12.) On October 28, 2015, the Trustee
indicated that the documentation provided by United was
“sufficient to allow the claim as filed.”
(Id. at 10.)
objected to United's claim on February 2, 2016, arguing
that United had failed to comply with the terms of paragraph
11B and had therefore waived its claim. (Dkt. 1-2 at 2.) The
Bankruptcy Court overruled Buckingham's objection on
April 19, 2016, reasoning that United's claim was
unambiguously unsecured and that it had not been necessary
for United to re-file a proof of claim containing
documentation relating to the liquidation of the house before
the 180 day deadline. (Id. at 3.) In response,
Buckingham filed the current appeal to this Court, seeking to
have the Bankruptcy Court's Order reversed and her
objection to United's claim upheld.
Standard of Review
Court has jurisdiction to review the “final judgments,
orders, and decrees” of bankruptcy courts pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1). A bankruptcy court's
conclusions of law are reviewed by a district court de
novo. In re Harford Sands Inc., 372 F.3d 637, 639 (4th
Cir. 2004). A district court must accept a bankruptcy
court's findings of fact unless they are clearly
erroneous. In re Frushour, 433 F.3d 393, 398 (4th
Cir. 2005). Any mixed questions of law and fact are also
subject to de novo review. In re Litton,
330 F.3d 636, 642 (4th Cir. 2003).
dispositive ground on which parties disagree is the
applicability of paragraph 11B of Appellant's Chapter 13
bankruptcy plan. Buckingham contends that paragraph 11B
applies to bar United's claim, while United claims that
they were free to proceed as an unsecured ...