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Court rules dog barking claim not dischargeable

Florida residents may be interested in a March ruling that set an important precedent for discharges in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. The ruling is an example of how certain judgments and debts may not be dischargeable in bankruptcy if they are pursued in court.

The case involved a nuisance lawsuit due to the excessive barking of dogs. The plaintiffs in the case argued that they suffered serious mental and emotional harm as a result of the dog barking, and they were essentially prisoners in their own home. The plaintiffs dealt with this situation for 14 years, and the defendants made no or insufficient effort to control the barking or lessen the impact on neighbors. The court awarded the plaintiffs $238,000 in damages for the case.

The dog owners filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy before the personal injury lawsuit was finalized. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows people to retain their property so long as they can create and maintain a repayment plan for their debt. The primary use of a Chapter 13 is to consolidate debt and possibly reduce the amount of debt owed. Certain debts may be discharged at the end of the payment plan. In this case, the dog owners attempted to have the judgment amount discharged as part of their bankruptcy. After receiving the judgment for their personal injury claim, the plaintiffs filed in bankruptcy court to have their judgment declared non-dischargeable. The court agreed that a substantial portion of the judgment would be non-dischargeable.

Each bankruptcy case is unique, and people may be interested in determining exactly how a bankruptcy will affect them before they file. As this case demonstrates, creditors may take certain debts to court in an attempt to prevent discharge.

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