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Cornell Davis v. Mitsubishi Motors of North America

September 8, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James E. Shadid United States District Judge


Thursday, 08 September, 2011 02:38:25 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This matter is now before the Court on Defendant, Mitsubishi Motors North America's ("MMNA"), Motion for Summary Judgment. The Motion is fully briefed by the parties, and oral argument was held on August 31, 2011. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [#26] is GRANTED.


On August 30, 2005, Plaintiff, Cornell Davis ("Davis"), and his wife filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition and reorganization plan. Davis was represented by counsel, and the plan was confirmed by the bankruptcy court on February 8, 2006.

On or about April 4, 2007, while the bankruptcy case was pending, Davis was placed at MMNA by an employment service to serve as a Contract Group Leader on a temporary basis for a period of six months. There is some suggestion that at the end of this period, Davis might be hired by MMNA, but this did not occur. Davis contends that the decision not to hire him was based on racial discrimination.

On December 27, 2007, Davis filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights alleging that MMNA's decision not to hire him was discriminatory. After receiving a notice of right to sue, he then filed the present Complaint on July 24, 2009. It is undisputed that the existence of this lawsuit was not disclosed by Davis to the bankruptcy court at any time prior to late April 2011, despite the fact that Davis' counsel filed an amended plan in the bankruptcy proceedings on August 6, 2008, more than seven months after the charge of discrimination was filed. Correspondence from Davis to the bankruptcy court in September 2010, February 2011, and March 2011 indicated that he had lost his job but likewise failed to indicate the existence of the pending employment discrimination claim. It was not until Davis' counsel discovered the pending bankruptcy proceedings in the course of preparing for a settlement conference in this case in late April 2011 that any kind of notice was given to anyone in connection with the bankruptcy proceedings, when counsel asked the attorney for the bankruptcy trustee whether the trustee needed to be involved in the settlement proceedings. Davis does not dispute that he did not notify the bankruptcy court or his creditors that he was pursuing this wrongful discharge claim or that he had received an offer of judgment for $60,000.00 at any time prior to the dismissal of his bankruptcy proceedings on May 17, 2011.

On June 21, 2011, MMNA filed its Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that Davis is judicially estopped from pursuing this case as a result of his failure to disclose this litigation in his bankruptcy proceedings. Davis has filed his response, and the matter is now ready for resolution. This Opinion follows.

Legal Standard

Summary judgment should be granted where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence on record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. SMS Demag Aktiengesellschaft v. Material Sciences Corp., 565 F.3d 365, 368 (7th Cir. 2009). All inferences reasonably drawn from the facts must be construed in favor of the non-movant. However, any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988); Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009).

It is not the Court's function to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment. The moving party has the responsibility of identifying portions of the record or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of disputed material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. If the evidence on record could not lead a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, then no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. McClendon v. Indiana Sugars, Inc., 108 F.3d 789, 796 (7th Cir. 1997). At the summary judgment stage, however, the "court may not make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from the facts." Washington v. Haupert, 481 F.3d 543, 550 (7th Cir. 2007).

MMNA argues that Davis is judicially estopped from pursuing his present claim as a result of his failure to disclose it during his bankruptcy proceedings. "Judicial estoppel is designed to 'prevent the perversion of the judicial process,'" by precluding a debtor from concealing an asset for his personal benefit. Cannon-Stokes v. Potter, 453 F.3d 446, 448 (7th Cir. 2006); In re Cassidy, 892 F.2d 637, 641 (7th Cir. 1990). In other words, a debtor who denies or fails to disclose an asset during bankruptcy cannot benefit from that concealed asset after the bankruptcy ends. Id. The theory behind this seemingly harsh doctrine is that coercing debtors to be truthful in their bankruptcy filings "will assist ...

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