Opinion:Birr v. Hampton,  2021 OK CIV APP 9
Subject matter:Bankruptcy
Date Decided:March 1, 2021
Trial Court:Tulsa County (J. Lafortune)
Route to this Court:Accelerated appeal from trial court’s order granting summary judgment; Assigned to Court of Civil Appeals Division II
Facts:Randall Birr filed a negligence claim against Norma Hampton for injuries allegedly suffered in a car accident. Three months after filing suit, Birr filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and failed to disclose the negligence claim to the bankruptcy court. Birr’s debts were discharged and his bankruptcy case was closed. Hampton filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that Birr lacked standing to pursue the personal injury claim and that Birr’s claims were barred under the doctrine of judicial estoppel. The trial court granted Hampton’s motion and denied Birr’s motion to vacate.
Standard of Review:De novo review for the MSJ and abuse of discretion for the motion to vacate. 
Analysis:When a person filed for bankruptcy protection, any pending claim is no longer under the personal control of the debtor, but rather becomes an asset of the bankruptcy estate. Coble v. Bowers, 1990 OK CIV APP 109. As such, the debtor has no standing to prosecute the claim on his own behalf- he is no longer the real party in interest. Id. The undisputed facts in this case do not support a finding that the trustee abandoned Birr’s negligence claim as property of the bankruptcy estate. Therefore, Birr is not the real party in interest and lacks standing. 
Oklahoma recognizes the doctrine of judicial estoppel. Under that doctrine, a party who knowingly assumes a particular position in matters of fact is estopped from later assuming an inconsistent position to the detriment of the adverse party. Bank of the Wichitas v. Ledford, 2006 OK 73. Judicial estoppel applies when a plaintiff fails to disclose a pending lawsuit as an assets in bankruptcy filings, receives a discharge of his debts, and then seeks to prosecute the claims in the lawsuit. Birr’s attempt to reopen his bankruptcy and amend his schedule of assets after Hampton filed her MSJ does not avoid application of judicial estoppel to his position. 
Vote:3-0; Opinion by J. Fischer
Other: Certiorari was not sought; Mandate issued March 31, 2021