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.