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Bankruptcy Update

When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in 2020, followed by the subsequent moratoriums, stimulus checks, and cratering interest rates, bankruptcy filings across the board plummeted. Since 2020, we have expected bankruptcy filings to eventually start increasing; however, they never have. Even with all the lockdowns, war in Ukraine, inflation and interest rates rising – the number of bankruptcy filings have not moved. Regardless, have we reached the bottom? And are we seeing a new trend of increases?

For the first time in months, bankruptcy filings increased across all chapters in August. Bankruptcy filings, including all chapters, increased 10% from August 2021; commercial filings increased 6% for the same period; and individual filings increased 10% as well. Filings in all three districts in Florida are up month over month and Georgia is seeing the same trend. While this is only a small sample size, the lesson here is to be on alert and ready to pivot and adapt accordingly if these trends continue. If we’ve learned one thing the last two years, its that being able to quickly adapt is a huge asset. If you have any questions on your bankruptcy (or collections department in general) policies and procedures, please let us know and we can help you tailor these to meet your needs.

Retirees Breathe a Sigh of Relief

With Florida being the retirement destination for many people, the recent In Re Smith case out of the 10th Circuit will put a large portion of our population more at ease. A debtor filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy and listed his 17-year-old golf cart as an exempt motor vehicle under state law in Oklahoma. The Trustee objected, stating that a golf cart is not a motor vehicle and the Court had to resolve this case of first impression.

The Debtor stated that he is unemployed and has no traditional automobile. Furthermore, he stated that the golf cart was his only means of transportation. He used it for shopping and other errands and borrowed his father’s pickup if he needed to go on a longer trip. Under Oklahoma (and Florida) law (plus the dictionary definition), the definition of a golf cart is a motor vehicle that is designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes, and that is not capable of exceeding speeds of 20 miles per hour.

The Court found this definition of very little help, because golf carts are “capable of transporting people and property for many other purposes other than on a golf course.” If you have ever been to 30A or another beach or retirement town, you know this is true as they are an ever-increasing form of transportation. The Court stated that a golf cart falls under the meaning of a “motor vehicle” in some instances, but for others it does not. Judge Loyd relied on 10th Circuit precedent, which calls for liberally construing exemptions given their humanitarian purpose and granted the exemption for the Debtor.

If you have any questions involving bankruptcy, golf carts, or any other matter, please reach out to us at (850) 388-0500.

In This Issue

Equitable Liens and Homestead Protections in Florida

The State of Florida is known for many things – one of those things is its strong homestead protections for homeowners. These protections, found in Article X, Section 4, of the Florida State Constitution can help a homeowner protect their residence from attachment of...

Making a Difference

We kicked off the new school year by “adopting a teacher” at a local elementary school. SVL donated school supplies, not only to some second graders, but also many essential items for the teacher as well! The amount of crayons, markers, glue sticks, backpacks, and so...

Out of Office

On Saturday, August 13th, SVL held a “firm social” at a local hangout in Tallahassee called District 850. The employees brought their significant others and children to the event. It was awesome to get together as a team to spend time with each other away from the...

Staff Spotlight on Mandy Sorenson

Mandy was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. She is a legal assistant in our office who handles the Florida replevins, Georgia Writs of Possession, and pre-judgment Georgia cases for our clients. In her time away from the office, Mandy’s favorite thing to do is...

Attorney Spotlight on Zaydee Portomene

Zaydee is one of our associate attorneys at Sorenson Van Leuven. She was born and raised in Havana, Cuba, where her mother was an attorney. Zaydee spent most of her childhood at her mom’s law office – this is where Zaydee’s interest in the law was born. Zaydee learned...

SVL SourcExpo 2022

On July 20-22nd, Sorenson Van Leuven had a successful SVL SourcExpo conference at the Renaissance International Plaza Hotel in Tampa. We want to thank everyone who attended – the SVL team thoroughly enjoyed our time spent with each of you. The SourcExpo is our annual...