April 20, 1992; April 20, 1992, Judgment Entered.
Appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. Hon. James R. Grube, Bankruptcy Judge, Presiding.
Before: Meyers, Perris and Russell, Bankruptcy Judges Meyers, Bankruptcy Judge
Geoffrey Paul Stainton and Cindy L. Stainton ("Debtors") appeal from two orders*fn1 of the bankruptcy court which awarded them $1,495 in damages for attorneys' fees and costs incurred as the result of the Appellees' violation of the automatic stay. We REVERSE.
Geoffrey Paul Stainton ("Stainton") operates an auto body shop in Milpitas, California, which is located on property owned by Appellees Kyung C. Lee and Anne C. Lee ("Lees"). On July 13, 1990, the Debtors filed a petition under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code ("Code"). Prior to the filing of the petition, the Lees, through their attorney, Appellee Daniel T. Paris ("Paris"), filed an unlawful detainer action in state court against Stainton. The state court trial was scheduled for July 16, 1990.
Prior to trial, Stainton's attorney submitted a copy of the Debtors' bankruptcy petition to the state court and to Paris and informed them of the application of the automatic stay. Nevertheless, the state court ruled that the automatic stay did not apply to the unlawful detainer action and that the trial could proceed. Upon Conclusion of the trial, judgment was entered in favor of the Lees.
On July 30, 1990, the Debtors filed a complaint in the bankruptcy court against the Lees and Paris alleging a violation of the automatic stay. The Debtors requested actual and punitive damages pursuant to Section 362(h) of the Code.*fn2
On December 10, 1990, the bankruptcy court held that the Lees and Paris had willfully violated the automatic stay and it granted the Debtors' motion for summary judgment. The court determined that the reasonable amount of attorneys' fees and costs incurred by the Debtors in prosecuting the violation of the stay amounted to $6,973.10. However, the court ordered the Lees and Paris to pay only $1,495.00 of the fees with the balance to be borne by the bankruptcy estate. The Debtors appeal.
The bankruptcy court's interpretation and application of Section 362(h) is a Conclusion of law subject to de novo review. In re Pacific Far East Lines, Inc., 889 F.2d 242, 245 (9th Cir. 1989); In re Globe Inv. ...