No Hurricane Excuse for Day-Late Claim in Puerto Rico Bankruptcy

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By Daniel Gill

Hurricanes Irma and Maria were no excuse for filing a proof of claim one day after the extended deadline, a Puerto Rico bankruptcy judge ruled.

Creditors originally had until Oct. 3, 2017 to file proofs of claim in Lizanne La Salle Rivera’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In Chapter 13, individuals receiving regular income can obtain debt relief while retaining their property. To do so, the debtor must propose a plan that uses future income to repay all or a portion of his debts over a three- to five-year period.

After the hurricanes ripped through Puerto Rico, wiping out power to the majority of the island for extended periods, the bankruptcy trial court extended all deadlines, including the time to file proofs of claim, to Nov. 6.

Victor Matos González filed his proof of claim Nov. 7, along with a motion to allow a late filed claim. González claimed that his lawyer was unable to open his offices “until very recently” to “reach the files” of his cases, and that due to the loss of power and internet, he only learned of the deadline that day.

These were “general pretexts,” not an “extraordinary circumstance” excusing the delay, the Jan. 24 opinion by Brian K. Tester, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Puerto Rico, said.

The creditor knew of the original deadline, was given notice of the five extended deadlines, and knew that as of Oct. 10, the court was accepting paper filings in lieu of electronic submissions, it said.

Guillermo F. De Guzman represented González. Rivera was represented by Roberto Perez Obregon, and the Chapter 13 trustee, Alejandro Oliveras Rivera represented himself.

The case is In re Rivera , 2018 BL 24205, Bankr. D.P.R., No. 17-03771, 1/24/18 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Gill in Washington at dgill@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jay Horowitz at jhorowitz@bloomberglaw.com

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