Bankruptcy Filing May Halt Child Negligence Case
By Chris Kramer
There are several strategic reasons for filing bankruptcy: the automatic stay protects you from garnishment of your income, repossession of property and foreclosure on your home. Filing for bankruptcy can also benefit you in smaller but still important ways, such as preventing shut-off of utilities and stopping collection of overpayment on social welfare benefits.
In addition, bankruptcy can protect you from lawsuits by halting them immediately. A recent news story details how a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing may be able to stop a personal injury lawsuit from proceeding, though the results of the case are still up in the air.
A former Columbus daycare provider facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed for bankruptcy and halted the jury trial of her case, which concerned the 2004 death of a 13-month-old Columbus boy.
Marjorie Walnofer, the daycare provider, was sued for the wrongful death of Konnar Thomas Perry-Forney, who died January 6, 2004, by Keli Forney, his mother, according to ColumbusTelegram.com. The lawsuit reportedly seeks $43,000 in medical and funeral costs and an unspecified amount of general damages for the wrongful death.
In the suit, Forney alleges that Walnofer was negligent in supervising and monitoring the child, in failing to remove or keeping or placing him in a position of peril and in failing to provide a safe environment. The suit also charges Walnofer with failing to inform Forney, other authorities or medical professionals of the child's injuries, failure to prepare and maintain records and failure to obtain a Nebraska Daycare License.
Reports show that the child died while in his mother's care, as a result of a seven-inch fracture in his skull. Forney believes that the fracture occurred while Walnofer was watching the child.
Set to begin at Platte County District Court, sources indicate that the case was put on hold this week when Walnofer informed the court that she was attempting to change her Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing from 2003 to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases move fairly quickly, and filers are usually discharged in a matter of months. Unsecured debts such as those from medical bills, credit cards, most personal loans, judgments from car accidents, deficiencies on repossessed vehicles, some older tax debt, payday loans and garnishments are often eliminated in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.
Forney's lawyer, David Copple, reportedly confirmed that if Walnofer's bankruptcy filing discharged any potential judgment, the suit would not be pursued in court.
In 2004, a jury in a criminal trial found Walnofer not guilty of child abuse resulting in death, according to the Telegraph. Had she been convicted of that charge, she would have faced 20 years to life in prison.
Now the concerned parties are waiting to see whether or not Walnofer's bankruptcy will protect her paying damages in the personal injury suit.