United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
TERRENCE J. DONAHUE, Trustee for the bankruptcy estate of TATYANA I MASON, Plaintiff,
JOHN A MASON, Defendant.
B. LEIGHTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Bankruptcy Trustee
Donahue's Motion for Summary Judgment on Defendant John
Mason's affirmative defenses [Dkt. # 40], and on
Mason's own Motion for Summary Judgment on the Bankruptcy
Trustee's claims. [Dkt. # 47]. The case involves John
Mason's “I-864 affidavit of support, ”
executed in connection with his fiancée's
(Plaintiff Tatyana's) K-1 visa.
and Tatyana were married in August 1999, had two children,
and were divorced in June 2008. Tatyana filed for bankruptcy
in late 2008, and received a discharge in March 2009. In
2017, Tatyana sued to enforce John's I-864 support
obligations to her. [Dkt. # 1]
moved to dismiss or for summary judgment, arguing that
Tatyana's failure to list his I-864 obligation to her as
an asset meant she had no standing to pursue her claim. [Dkt.
# 28]. As a result, Tatyana moved to re-open her bankruptcy
and to permit the substitution of the Bankruptcy Trustee
(Donahue) as the real party in interest. Tatyana sought to
remain a plaintiff in “order to preserve any interest
in the claim that may ultimately be found to be outside the
bankruptcy estate.” [Dkt. # 32 at 2; see also
Dkt. #s 33 & 34]. That unopposed request was granted.
[Dkt. # 36].
argues that the only factual issue in the case is whether
John's I-864 obligations were terminated under the
various laws outlining those obligations-IRRIRA and the
regulations implemented under it. See 8 C.F.R.
§213a.2(e) (2006). Donahue argues that the obligation
has not terminated.
claims that some of John's affirmative defenses (Nos.
2-6-waiver, estoppel, res judicata, failure to
mitigate, and limitations period) should be stricken, because
he has pled no facts in support of them. John Mason concedes
that these five affirmative defenses do not apply and the
Motion to Strike and for Summary Judgment on them is GRANTED.
They are DISMISSED with prejudice.
argues that John Mason's primary affirmative defense (No.
1)-lack of standing because the obligation does not belong to
the bankruptcy trustee-is not supportable because the claim
accrued prior to her bankruptcy filing.
own Motion for Summary Judgment is on this primary defense as
well. He now argues he had not breached his I-864
“contract” obligations at the time Tatyana filed
for bankruptcy protection, and that Donahue therefore does
not have standing to assert them here: “the Chapter 7
Trustee . . . has no standing or authority to pursue
post-bankruptcy contract payment for the benefit of
Plaintiff's pre-bankruptcy creditors.” [Dkt. # 47
at 1]. But he already argued (successfully) that Tatyana did
not have standing to enforce the contract because her claims
belonged to her bankruptcy estate. His current claim that the
bankruptcy trustee does not have standing to pursue this
claim because it had not accrued when she filed is facially
at odds with his prior position.
points out this inconsistency in his Reply [Dkt. # 50], and
reiterates that that obligation was not terminated. In his
own Reply [Dkt. # 54], John Mason seems to concede that
Tatyana does have standing to pursue post-petition
obligations, and that the trustee has standing to pursue any
pre-petition obligations. But he now contends that Donahue
can properly pursue only those claims belonging to the estate
(and not those that that accrued after Tatyana's 2008
Chapter 7 filing.)
first point, it cannot be the case that neither has standing.
One or the other has the requisite standing, and both are
plaintiffs in this case. Donahue was substituted to be the
real party in interest to resolve a problem John himself
first raised, and Tatyana remained a plaintiff expressly to
protect any right that she had in the obligation that did not
belong to her bankruptcy estate. John's Motion for
Summary Judgment dismissing the Trustee's claims on the
basis that the obligations accrued after the
petition was filed is DENIED, because it raises factual
questions-Donahue (and Tatyana) claim the obligation accrued
earlier, which is why John raised the issue, and why Donahue
went to the trouble to enter the case.
to the extent John objects to Donahue's counsel
simultaneously pursuing similar but later-accruing claims on
Tatyana's behalf, it is not clear that he has
standing to raise that issue. There are two plaintiffs with
complimentary claims. How they divide any recovery is up to
them, not John. John's Motion for Summary Judgment on
this point is also DENIED.
Motion for Summary Judgment on this first affirmative defense
(Donahue's lack of standing) is GRANTED and that defense
is DISMISSED to the extent that ...