Slater v. United States Steel Corp., No. 12-15548 (11th Cir. 2018)

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Justia Opinion Summary

After plaintiff filed an employment discrimination case against US Steel, she filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition that did not disclose the employment-discrimination claims. The Chapter 7 Trustee was treating the bankruptcy as a “no asset” case. U.S. Steel moved the district court for dismissal. An Eleventh Circuit panel initially affirmed the district court in holding that judicial estoppel required dismissal of the bankruptcy case. Upon rehearing en banc, the Eleventh Circuit overruled precedent “that permitted the inference that a plaintiff intended to make a mockery of the judicial system simply because he failed to disclose a civil claim” and remanded for a determination of whether a plaintiff’s inconsistent statements were calculated to make a mockery of the judicial system. When the plaintiff’s inconsistent statement is an omission in bankruptcy disclosures, the court may consider such factors as the plaintiff’s level of sophistication, whether and under what circumstances the plaintiff corrected the disclosures, whether the plaintiff told his bankruptcy attorney about the civil claims before filing the bankruptcy disclosures, whether the trustee or creditors were aware of the claims before the plaintiff amended the disclosures, whether the plaintiff identified other lawsuits to which he was party, any findings or actions by the bankruptcy court after the omission was discovered, and any other fact relevant to the intent inquiry.”

This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on February 24, 2016.

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Case: 12-15548 Date Filed: 06/12/2018 Page: 1 of 3 [PUBLISH] IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT ________________________ No. 12-15548 ________________________ D.C. Docket No. 2:09-cv-01732-KOB SANDRA SLATER, Plaintiff – Appellant, versus U.S. STEEL CORPORATION, Defendant – Appellee. ________________________ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama ________________________ (June 12, 2018) Before TJOFLAT and WILLIAM PRYOR, Circuit Judges, and SCOLA, * District Judge. * Honorable Robert N. Scola, Jr., United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida, sitting by designation. Case: 12-15548 Date Filed: 06/12/2018 Page: 2 of 3 PER CURIAM: Sandra Slater failed to disclose to the Bankruptcy Court in her pending Chapter 7 case the employment discrimination claims she was prosecuting in the instant case against U.S. Steel Corporation. Upon discovering Slater’s failure to disclose the claims to the Bankruptcy Court, U.S. Steel, citing our precedent in Burnes v. Pemco Aeroplex, Inc., 291 F.3d 1282 (11th Cir. 2002), moved the District Court to dismiss her claims under the doctrine of judicial estoppel. U.S. Steel argued that Slater’s maintenance of inconsistent positions in the two judicial proceedings, standing alone, constituted a “mockery of the judicial system.” See id. at 1285 (quotation omitted). The District Court agreed and granted U.S. Steel’s motion, and this panel affirmed. Slater v. U.S. Steel Corp. (“Slater I”), 820 F.3d 1193 (11th Cir. 2016). Upon rehearing en banc, this Court overruled the portions of Burnes 1 “that permitted the inference that a plaintiff intended to make a mockery of the judicial system simply because he failed to disclose a civil claim” and remanded the case to the panel for further consideration of the District Court’s judicial estoppel ruling. Slater v. U.S. Steel Corp. (“Slater II”), 871 F.3d 1174, 1185 (11th Cir. 2017). In Slater II, we said that 1 Also overruled was the portion of Barger v. City of Cartersville, 348 F.3d 1289 (11th Cir. 2003), which adhered to the overruled portion of Burnes’ holding. 2 Case: 12-15548 Date Filed: 06/12/2018 Page: 3 of 3 to determine whether a plaintiff’s inconsistent statements were calculated to make a mockery of the judicial system, a court should look to all the facts and circumstances of the particular case. When the plaintiff’s inconsistent statement comes in the form of an omission in bankruptcy disclosures, the court may consider such factors as the plaintiff’s level of sophistication, whether and under what circumstances the plaintiff corrected the disclosures, whether the plaintiff told his bankruptcy attorney about the civil claims before filing the bankruptcy disclosures, whether the trustee or creditors were aware of the civil lawsuit or claims before the plaintiff amended the disclosures, whether the plaintiff identified other lawsuits to which he was party, and any findings or actions by the bankruptcy court after the omission was discovered. Id. We emphasized that this list “is not exhaustive; the district court is free to consider any fact or factor it deems relevant to the intent inquiry.” Id. n.9. The District Court, bound as it was by Burnes, considered none of these factors in granting U.S. Steel’s motion for summary judgment. Its application of the judicial estoppel doctrine therefore constituted an abuse of discretion. For that reason, we vacate its summary judgment order and remand the case for further proceedings not inconsistent herewith. VACATED AND REMANDED. 3
Primary Holding
In determining whether a plaintiff's nondisclosure of a pending civil lawsuit, in a bankruptcy filing, requires dismissal of the bankruptcy suit requires consideration of all the facts and circumstances.

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