Adequate Protection Considerations in the Middle District of Tennessee Bankruptcy Courts

Despite using the same Bankruptcy Code, Bankruptcy Courts often have a broad range of practices on how the exact same statutes can apply.

While most creditors’ lawyers will call any Bankruptcy Court “debtor-friendly,” one way that the Bankruptcy Courts in the Middle District of Tennessee are markedly different than others is the threshold of proof required for creditors to receive “adequate protection” payments from the debtor.

Adequate Protection refers to payments made by the debtor to the creditor, generally, to compensate the creditor for the use of the creditor’s collateral. The statutory precedent is 11 U.S.C. § 361(1), which allows the debtor to make a “cash payment” to the extent that the automatic stay “results in in a decrease in the value of [the creditor’s] interest in the property.” In layman’s terms, if the bankruptcy stay hurts or impairs the value of your collateral, you may be entitled to a cash payment (or an alternate/replacement lien).

In some districts, like the Middle District of Georgia, the Bankruptcy Courts allow the resumption of contract payments to a secured creditor, without a deep analysis of depreciation.

The Middle District of Tennessee takes a different approach. Here, a secured creditor is only entitled to adequate protection in the amount that it can prove depreciation of its lien. So, with a car, the creditor would get compensation for the loss of value from the Debtor’s use of the collateral. (It’s substantially more difficult with real property, where depreciation is may be impossible to prove.)

In order to obtain Court approval and avoid an objection from the U.S. Trustee, the creditor will typically need to hire an appraiser to go look at the vehicle and assess the value and his estimate of how much wear and tear/depreciation is imposed on the car on a monthly basis. Then, the Court would order monthly adequate protection payments in that amount.

As an aside, this practice isn’t for the debtor’s benefit; it’s actually designed to protect unsecured creditors from arbitrary loss of cash/income from the Bankruptcy Estate.

As a creditors attorney operating in the Nashville Bankruptcy Courts, this a conversation I have a lot with outside counsel. It’s a hard lesson to teach, especially when the Courts in their backyard take the opposite approach.

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