In Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson, 581 U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 1407, 197 L.Ed.2d 790 (2017), the United States Supreme Court held that creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases do not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act if the creditor files a proof of claim based upon a stale debt in the bankruptcy case. In other words, even if the statute of limitations set forth by state law has expired as to the creditor’s claim against the debtor, it is not a violation of federal law for the creditor to file a proof of claim in the bankruptcy case. Once the proof of claim has been filed, the burden is on the debtor, through counsel, to identify the stale nature of the claim and object to the claim. The Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee may also object. If no objection is made, the claim is likely to be allowed in the bankruptcy case.
Midland Funding has led to additional questions, including whether the same rule applies in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases as well or is limited to Chapter 13. Although Midland Funding was focused on Chapter 13, we believe the holding regarding stale debts would apply to Chapter 7 consumer bankruptcy cases. Based on Midland Funding, creditors will in some cases be able to recover at least part of a debt that could not be pursued outside the bankruptcy court forum. Creditors are now significantly more likely to file such claims in bankruptcy cases.
Erickson | Sederstrom recommends that creditors planning to file a proof of claim that would be time-barred under state law first consult with counsel to ensure they do not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.