United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
RONALD A. STRUCKMEYER and PATRICIA A. STRUCKMEYER, Debtors-Appellants,
DANA S. FRAZIER, Trustee-Appellee.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Debtors/Appellants Ronald Struckmeyer and
Patricia Struckmeyer's appeal of the September 18, 2017,
Order of the Bankruptcy Court. Appellants and Appellee Dana
Frazier ("the Trustee") filed Briefs (Docs. 2 and
5), and Appellants filed a Reply Brief (Doc. 6). For the
following reasons, the decision of the Bankruptcy Court is
December 8, 2010, Patricia Struckmeyer was injured in an
automobile accident. Appellants retained counsel to pursue
claims arising from the accident. A lawsuit was never filed,
and a settlement was reached in August 2012. A general
release of all claims was executed by Appellants on August
31, 2012 in exchange for a payment of $322, 500.00. As
detailed in the Final Settlement Statement, after payment of
attorney's fees and costs and outstanding medical liens,
the net settlement payment to Appellants was $164, 451.61.
Appellants initially deposited the settlement proceeds into
their joint checking account.
October 2012, $45, 000.00 of the settlement proceeds was
deposited into a joint investment account managed by TAASK
Investment Group. The funds have been held in this account
since that date, with balance fluctuations due to interest
and market variables. On December 31, 2016, the account had a
value of $26, 042.11, according to the account statement.
December 26, 2016, Appellants filed a voluntary petition for
Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court
for the Southern District of Illinois, No. 16-41176.
Appellants claimed a $15, 000.00 exemption pursuant to 735
ILCS 5/12-1001(h)(4) as to their investment account on their
original Schedule C. On September 13, 2017, Appellants filed
a Third Amended Schedule C, adding a personal injury
exemption pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/12-1001(h)(4) for the
investment account; identifying it as “Husband's
exemption” in the amount of $15, 000.00. Appellants
maintained the original $15, 000 personal injury exemption
for the investment account and added a description
identifying it as “Wife's exemption.”
Trustee conceded the exemption as to Patricia Struckmeyer,
but timely objected to the claimed exemption as to Ronald
Struckmeyer, on the grounds that loss of consortium claims do
not fall within the scope of the 735 ILCS 5/12- 1001(h)(4)
exemption. On September 18, 2017, Bankruptcy Judge Laura
Grandy sustained the objection. Appellants filed a Notice of
Appeal on September 26, 2017.
to 28 U.S.C. § 158, a federal district court has
jurisdiction to hear appeals from the rulings of the
bankruptcy court. On appeal, the district court “may
affirm, modify or reverse a bankruptcy court's judgment,
order or decree, or remand with instructions for further
proceedings.” Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8013; see also In re
Krueger, 192 F.3d 733, 737 (7th Cir. 1999). The district
court reviews the bankruptcy court's findings of fact for
clear error and reviews its conclusions of law de novo.
First Weber Group, Inc. v. Horsfall , 738 F.3d 767,
776 (7th Cir. 2013).
exemption statutes are to be interpreted liberally in favor
of the debtor only if there is an ambiguity in the language
of the statute under which the exemption is claimed; not when
there is an ambiguity in the manner in which the exemption is
claimed by the debtor. See In re Barker,
768 F.2d 191, 196 (7th Cir. 1985); In re Kuhn, 322
B.R. 377, 385-86 (Bankr. N.D. Ind. 2005). If a statute is
plain and unambiguous on its face, “judicial inquiry is
complete.” Connecticut Nat. Bank v. Germain,
503 U.S. 249, 254 (1992). Put another way, if the statutory
language is clear and unambiguous, the Court should look no
further. In re Barker, 768 F.2d 191, 194 (7th Cir.
1985). 735 ILCS 5/12-1001(h)(4) provides in pertinent part:
The following personal property, owned by the debtor, is
exempt from judgment, attachment, or distress for rent:
* * * * * *
(h) The debtor's right to receive, or property that is
(4) a payment, not to exceed $15, 000 in value, on account of
personal bodily injury of the debtor or an individual of whom