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Bennett v. Lindsey

Merely pleading a false statement under oath won’t beat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, Fifth Circuit says.

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Case Type:
Business
Case Status:
Affirmed
Citation:
No. 17-50746 (5th Circuit, Jul 11,2018) Not Published
Tag(s):
Ruling:
The Fifth Circuit found that "even assuming that Bennett properly requested leave to amend, he did not file a proposed amended complaint in accordance with Local Rule 7015 for the Western District of Texas Bankruptcy Court.19 Because federal trial courts have “considerable latitude in applying their own rules,”20 and because Local Rule 7015 explicitly permits summary denial of relief when a movant fails to file a proposed amended complaint, we cannot say that the bankruptcy court abused its discretion in denying relief." AFFIRMED.
Procedural context:
On April 15, 2016, Bennett filed an adversary proceeding against Lindsey alleging that the $15,000 debt was non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A) because Lindsey fraudulently induced the Release by falsely promising that all subcontractors, save Benchmark and Lopez, were paid in full. Lindsey subsequently moved to dismiss Bennett’s complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the bankruptcy court set a hearing for June 16, 2016. At the hearing, the court allowed extensive argument from all counsel and repeatedly expressed concerns that Bennett’s complaint was conclusory. In response, Bennett’s counsel expressed a desire to re-plead if necessary, but he never formally moved for leave to amend. The court ultimately took the matter under advisement and set a date to orally announce its reasons for judgment. On July 6, 2016, the bankruptcy court granted Lindsey’s 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, finding Bennett’s allegations that subcontractors were unpaid to be “mere statements without any supporting facts.” On July 31, 2017, the United States District Court issued a memorandum opinion and order affirming the dismissal of Bennett’s complaint. This appeal ensued.
Facts:
In October 2014, KRL Custom Homes, LLC (“KRL”) entered into a contract to build a home for Bennett. Lindsey, in his capacity as representative and sole owner of KRL, signed the contract on behalf of KRL. On March 25, 2015, Bennett and KRL executed an Agreement for Termination of Contract and Release (“Release”). Under the Release, KRL agreed to refund Bennett $42,300 in exchange for a release of any claims Bennett might have against KRL. The refund was to be divided into three distinct payments: (1) $15,000 in the form of three postdated $5,000 checks to replace the contract deposit and an earlier payment to KRL; (2) $7,300 to pay Benchmark Plumbing Co. (“Benchmark”) for plumbing work; and (3) $20,000 to pay Daniel Lopez (“Lopez”) for work performed on the home.1 In the following months, KRL paid a portion of the $27,300 due Lopez and Benchmark under the Release. However, none of the postdated $5,000 checks cleared, leaving a $15,000 balance. In February of 2016, Lindsey filed for “no asset” bankruptcy under Chapter 7.2 Lindsey listed 47 creditors and $776,469.99 in debt on his personal schedule, including $15,000 owed to Bennett. In a footnote the court stated that "it appears that the $20,000.00 refund was conditional on Lopez not having been paid. The fine print in the Release, which was attached to Bennett’s complaint, states that “[i]f the total sum of payments to Daniel Lopez is less than $20,000, the difference between $20,000 and the actual amounts paid to Daniel Lopez will be refunded to [Bennett and Nicholson].” From the record, it appears that Lindsey paid a portion this amount, but it is not clear whom he paid or how much."
Judge(s):
DAVIS, HAYNES, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

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