Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ali v. CIT Technology Financing Services, Inc. (Ct. of Special Appeals)

Filed: October 5, 2009
Opinion by Judge James R. Eyler

Held: Section 5-202 of Maryland's Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article tolls the three year statute of limitations of Section 5-101 during the pendency of a bankruptcy proceeding. The case was remanded to the lower court to apply Section 11 U.S.C 349(b) and determine whether the damages to be awarded should be calculated based on the consent order issued by the bankruptcy court in a case that was later dismissed or the original contract executed between the parties prior to the bankruptcy filing.

Facts: The parties entered into a five year equipment lease in June of 1997 with monthly payments for an aggregate amount of $196,536. In May of 1999, the Lessee defaulted under the lease agreement and the outstanding payment sum of $158,760,86 became immediately due.

On June 11, 2001, the Lessee filed a chapter 11 petition in bankruptcy and in August of 2004, the parties entered into a stipulation and proposed consent order that was executed by the court which allowed the Lessor a general unsecured claim in the amount of $190,725.86, and an administrative claim in the amount of $53,200.

The Lessor received some portion of the payment towards the administrative claim but did not receive any payment towards its general unsecured claim by way of a distribution in the bankruptcy proceeding. On on July 12, 2006, the bankruptcy court dismissed the Lessee’s bankruptcy case without discharge of its debts. In January, 2007, the Lessor filed suit against the Lessee for breach of the lease and, alternatively, by amended complaint filed in March, 2008, to enforce the stipulation and consent order.

The Lessee's principal defense was that Lessor's claims was barred by limitation because the tolling of Maryland's three year statute of limitations was only suspended from the date on which the bankruptcy proceeding commenced until the date on which the bankruptcy court lifted the automatic stay as to the equipment lease at issue.

The Lessor argued that Section 5-202 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article tolled the running of the statute of limitations during the entire bankruptcy proceeding.

The Lessee also contended that the Lessor was seeking more than what it was entitled to receive under the lease.

The Court of Special Appeals discussed, in a fair amount of detail, the history of bankruptcy law and its inter-relationship with state insolvency laws. Ultimately, it concluded that, under §5-202, the running of the statute of limitations was tolled during the entire period that the bankruptcy proceeding was pending. However, the Court vacated the judgment and remanded the matter for to the Circuit Court for a proper assessment of damages as determined by either the stipulation and consent order or the original lease. The Court also vacated the portion of the judgment awarding pre-judgment interest because it could not determine how the Circuit Court had determined the amount of pre-judgment interest that it had awarded.

The entire opinion is available in PDF.

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