Global Western Development Corp., In re

Decision Date30 April 1985
Docket NumberNo. 84-5711,84-5711
Citation759 F.2d 724
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

William W. Carter, Los Angeles, Cal., for debtor-appellant.

Ward Mikkelson, Orange, Cal., for creditor-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Before BROWNING and BARNES, Circuit Judges, and PRICE, District Judge *.


Global Western Development Corporation ("Global") appeals the district court's order affirming the bankruptcy court judgment allowing the claim of creditor Northern Orange County Credit Service, Inc. ("Credit Service"). We affirm.


Global filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the former Bankruptcy Code (11 U.S.C. Sec. 701 et seq.) on October 4, 1976. 1 On January 27, 1982, over five years after Global's bankruptcy petition has been filed, Credit Service filed a creditor's claim for $250,000, plus interest and attorney's fees. Previously, the Global estate had been determined by the bankruptcy court to be one with substantial "surplus"; i.e., after payment of costs of administration and payment of all timely filed claims, plus interest thereon, surplus funds remained in the estate which would be disbursed to the Debtor or to its sole shareholder, one Kent Rogers ("Rogers"). Therefore, Credit Service's late claim was allowable under Section 57(n) of the Bankruptcy Act (former 11 U.S.C. Sec. 93(n)).

Credit Service is the assignee of an alleged $250,000 obligation, represented in the form of two promissory notes, upon which this claim is based. One note is an undated, secured note and the second note is dated but unsecured. When it filed its claim on January 27, 1982, Credit Service attached the undated note upon which its claim was based. Thereafter, on June 21, 1982, the bankruptcy court held a hearing on Global's objection to the Credit Service claim. The hearing was continued to September 8, 1982, and on that date, Credit Service produced the second note, dated August 11, 1974, which it alleged was the basis for its claim against Global.

The bankruptcy court allowed the Credit Service claim for $250,000 plus attorney's fees at the September 8, 1982 hearing, and the court filed its findings of fact and conclusions of law and the judgment after trial on October 13, 1982. Global filed a timely appeal to the district court on November 3, 1982. The district court affirmed the judgment of the bankruptcy court by order filed on March 5, 1984, and Global filed a timely notice of appeal to this court on March 7, 1984. Both the district court and this Court have jurisdiction to review the decision of the bankruptcy court under 28 U.S.C. Secs. 1293 and 1334. 2


In an appeal from the district court's affirmance of a decision of the bankruptcy court, the role of the court of appeals and the district court is essentially the same. Sambo's Restaurants v. Wheeler, 754 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir.1985), citing In re Marin Motor Oil, Inc., 689 F.2d 445, 448 (3d Cir.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1206, 103 S.Ct. 1196, 75 L.Ed.2d 440 (1983); In re Bildisco, 682 F.2d 72, 81 n. 14 (3d Cir.1982), aff'd, --- U.S. ----, 104 S.Ct. 1188, 79 L.Ed.2d 482 (1984). Thus, on review of a district court determination with respect to a final order of a bankruptcy court, the court of appeals is in essence reviewing the final order of the bankruptcy court. Sambo's Restaurants, 754 F.2d at 814.

This Court reviews the bankruptcy court's findings of fact under the "clearly erroneous" standard, and the bankruptcy court's conclusions of law are subject to a de novo standard of review. See In re Dill, 731 F.2d 629, 631 (9th Cir.1984); In re Ellsworth, 722 F.2d 1448, 1450 (9th Cir.1984).


On appeal, Global has presented two issues for our consideration.

1. Whether a creditor's failure to append a second note upon which its proof of claim was based, violated the technical filing requirements of Section 57 of the Bankruptcy Act; and

2. Whether the bankruptcy court erred by allowing the creditor's claim based upon a promissory note that was not revealed to the debtor prior to the hearing on the claim.

We note that Global has cited no cases in support of the issues raised in its brief. It relies only on Section 57 of the Bankruptcy Act (former 11 U.S.C. Sec. 93) 3 to support its position. The statute requires that where a proof of claim is founded upon an instrument in writing, the instrument shall be filed with the proof of claim unless the instrument is lost or destroyed.

In this case, Credit Service did not change or amend its actual proof of claim, and the amount claimed by Credit Service against the bankrupt estate (as evidenced by two distinct and separate notes) remained $250,000. Nonetheless, Global challenges the substitution of the August 11, 1974 unsecured promissory note in place of the undated note secured by a deed of trust. Global has failed to show that it suffered any prejudice as a result of Credit Service's claim being granted based upon the dated rather than upon the undated note.

The security for the undated note had been extinguished for more than a year before Global filed for bankruptcy. In addition, Credit Service did not file its proof of claim within the six-month period after the bankruptcy filing which is required in order for a secured proof of claim to be valid. Thus, since Credit Service filed its claim under 57(n) of the Bankruptcy Act (former 11 U.S.C. Sec. 93(n)), the issue of whether it would take as a secured or unsecured creditor under its proof of claim is irrelevant. Under this section, "claims not filed within the time .. prescribed may ... be filed within such time ... as the court may fix or for cause shown extend and, if duly proved, shall be allowed against any surplus remaining in such case." Former 11 U.S.C. Sec. 93(n), in relevant part.

The statute controlling the filing requirements in this case specifically allows for a late filed claim where there is a surplus estate. In addition, the bankruptcy court may in exercising its equitable power, allow late filed claims to prevent injustice. In re H. & C. Table Co., Inc., 457 F.Supp. 858, 860 (W.D.Tenn.1978). "As courts of equity, bankruptcy courts 'will look through the form to the substance of any particular transaction and may contrive new remedies where those in law are inadequate....' " In re Madeline Marie Nursing Homes, 694 F.2d 433, 436 (6th Cir.1982), quoting 1 Collier on Bankruptcy, p 2.09 at 173-175 (14th ed. 1974). "Substantial right and justice, rather than technical form, control." ITT-Industrial Credit Co. v. Hughes, 594 F.2d 384, 386 (4th Cir.1979) (citations omitted).

Credit Service filed a proof of claim for $250,000, and produced cancelled checks endorsed by Rogers in the amount of $250,000. Since the secured, undated note which was attached to the proof of claim became unsecured prior to the filing of Global's bankruptcy petition, this undated note had the same effect as that of the August 11, 1974 unsecured promissory note: i.e., that Credit Service had to file a claim against the bankrupt estate, since under the note there was no property upon which it could attach a lien.

The trustee alluded to the fact that the estate might have a liability on the note based upon the theory of money had and received by Global. Thus, from the evidence presented at the September 8, 1974 hearing, the bankruptcy court could properly conclude that there was sufficient evidence of a debt of $250,000 owed by the Global estate. "In bankruptcy, it is settled that a properly executed proof of claim is sufficient to shift the burden of producing evidence and to entitle the claimant to a share in the distribution of the bankrupt's estate unless an objector comes forward with evidence contradicting the claim." In re Friedman, 436 F.Supp. 234, 237 (D.Md.1977).

Global failed to adduce any evidence to refute the claim for the $250,000. At the September 8, 1982...

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