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Woman learns the hard way what it means to be a creditor in a consumer bankruptcy

Charlotte Bankruptcy Lawyer Bryan W. Stone of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What are North Carolina’s exemptions ?”


The idea of a creditor not getting paid all it claims it is owed from a bankrupt person may not bring tears to the eyes of many readers.

Female protestors Charlotte Bankruptcy Lawyer Mecklenburg Debt Law FirmThe idea of the creditor in the abstract, however—perhaps a faceless corporation squishing every penny it can out of a debtor—may not square with the visage of the fifty-year-old woman protesting outside a bankruptcy court in Oakland, California last week.

The woman—Patricia Rhyne—is a creditor of Dale Christiansen. Christiansen is dead and his estate is bankrupt, meaning the money he owes Rhyne may never be paid.

Rhyne alleged that Christiansen molested her repeatedly when she was a young girl. In 2011, she wrote a letter to the man and hand delivered it. When she delivered the letter, she said he fondled her breasts and said he would like to perform oral sex on her.

Christiansen was never charged criminally for any incidents alleged by Rhyne and died in 2014. Rhyne, meanwhile, sued Christiansen in civil court for sexual assault, and in 2013 a Contra Costa, California jury awarded her $530,000.00.

Rhyne recovered $118,000 of the judgement, but $62,000 of that was paid to her attorney, and thousands more were spent on court fees and outside legal advice.

Then, last year, Christiansen’s survivors filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which froze all proceedings against Christiansen’s estate—including Rhyne’s actions to collect on her judgment against him.

Christiansen’s family was set to sell Christiansen’s Martinez, California home in order to pay creditors, but the bankruptcy filing stayed that sale and complicated Rhyne’s chances of recovering any of the proceeds of a sale.

Rhyne’s attorney, Dana Scruggs, lamented that the justice system provides numerous avenues to persons to avoid paying judgments. “Bottom line is if somebody has a judgment against them and they are not really rich and they don’t want you to get the money,” Scruggs told the Mercury News, “the American legal system provides them with a lot of methods to do that.”

The Bankruptcy Code authorizes a broad discharge of debts for “honest but unfortunate debtors.” Not all kinds of debt, however, are subject to discharge. Many kinds of debts that cannot be discharged are related to “moral turpitude,” or intentional wrongdoing. The creditor bears the burden of demonstrating to the bankruptcy court that a debt should not be discharged because it is subject to one of the narrow exceptions in the Code.

Rhyne has been granted time to challenge the discharge of her judgment in Christiansen’s bankruptcy. She will likely have to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Christiansen’s intentional tort—his sexual assault upon her—should be excepted from discharge pursuant to Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code.

If you find yourself needing the services of an experienced Charlotte, North Carolina bankruptcy attorney, please call the skilled lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC find additional resources here. As professionals who are experienced at handling all kinds of bankruptcy matters, our attorneys will provide you with the best advice for your particular situation.



About the Author

Bryan 1Bryan Stone is a Partner with Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses his practice on all aspects of bankruptcy, including: Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 13, home loan modifications and landlord-tenant issues.

A native of Macon, Georgia, Mr. Stone attended the University of Georgia, where he earned a BBA in Banking and Finance, and Wake Forest University School of Law, where he obtained his law degree.

Following law school, Mr. Stone relocated to Charlotte, where he currently serves as Chair of “Bravo!” – a young professionals organization associated with Opera Carolina – and founded the University of Georgia Alumni Association of Charlotte.

In his spare time, Mr. Stone enjoys perfecting his barbeque skills for the annual “Q-City BBQ Championship” and playing softball in the Mecklenburg County Bar softball league.








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