Notable Cases

October 27, 2014: Bankruptcy Court enters Order judicially estopping Debtor/Plaintiff from pursuing three related lawsuits against numerous oil company clients of Jeffery P. Reynolds, P.A., thus ending 18+ years of litigation.

On October 27, 2014, the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Mississippi entered an Order judicially estopping a Debtor from pursuing three related lawsuits against numerous oil company clients of Jeffery P. Reynolds, P.A. relating to a piece of real property she owns in Wayne County, Mississippi. The first lawsuit, alleging that the property in question had been environmentally impacted by an independent oilfield contractor that was hired to do work for many different oil companies, most of which were not sued, was filed by the Debtor’s late father in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi (and later transferred to Wayne County, Mississippi) back in 1996. A federal court lawsuit and a proceeding before the Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality, both alleging the same facts about the same property, were later filed against the same oil companies. The Bankruptcy Court’s Order effectively ended this litigation in three different forums.

The Debtor’s father passed away in 2001, leaving the Debtor as his sole heir and beneficiary. Under Mississippi law, this meant that the Debtor immediately inherited both the property at issue in the lawsuits discussed above and the claims her late father had brought in the lawsuits themselves. At the time of her father’s passing, the Debtor had recently instituted a Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding and was obligated by law to disclose to the Bankruptcy Court any assets she came into possession of. This would include any property (including the property at issue in the lawsuits), any estates she may have inherited (such as her late father’s estate), and any legal claims she was entitled to pursue (like those she inherited from her father related to the property). However, the Debtor did not disclose any of this to the Bankruptcy Court, which under federal law was the same as representing to the Court that she did not own any such assets. The Debtor eventually obtained a full discharge of her debts in 2005, with no payments to her unsecured creditors.

Jeff Reynolds, representing multiple oil company Defendants in these lawsuits, only became aware of the Debtor’s bankruptcy in July of 2013 and promptly informed all of the involved Courts of the Debtor’s non-disclosure in her bankruptcy proceeding. After the Debtor re-opened her bankruptcy proceeding in a belated attempt to right her wrong, Mr. Reynolds instituted an Adversary Proceeding against the Debtor seeking an Order from the Bankruptcy Court barring the Debtor from further pursuit of her three lawsuits. The basis of this request was “judicial estoppel,” meaning that the Debtor should not be able to obtain a discharge of her debts based on her assertion that she had no assets to the Bankruptcy Court, but then turn around and pursue three different lawsuits where she sought millions of dollars in damages from various oil companies.

Mr. Reynolds, as lead counsel, argued the oil companies’ Motion for Summary Judgment based on judicial estoppel before the Honorable Neil P. Olack on September 3, 2014. Mr. Reynolds was assisted by his co-counsel, Mr. Gene Berry and Mr. Carson Thurman. The Court ruled in favor of the oil companies, finding that the Debtor had an affirmative duty during the pendency of her bankruptcy to disclose to the Court any assets she obtained, including the property at issue in the lawsuits and the lawsuits themselves. Having found that she violated this duty, the Court entered an Order barring her from pursuing her actions before the Mississippi state court, the federal court, and the Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality, thus ending over 18 years of litigation against Mr. Reynolds’ oil company clients.

For more information about the case contact Jeffery Reynolds at 601 355.7773 or jeff@jprpa.com.

“There is no other lawyer I would rather have on my side than Jeff. I wish I could clone him.”
—Lynn Bortka, In-House Attorney, BP (retired) More testimonials