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Bryant v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

February 22, 2017

SAMANTHA BRYANT PLAINTIFF
v.
MISSISSIPPI DIVISION OF MEDICAID and DEBORAH CARTER WOODS in her individual capacity DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Mississippi Division of Medicaid's motion for summary judgment filed October 14, 2016. Doc. #53. Earlier, on July 29, 2014, this Court dismissed all claims by Samantha Bryant against the individual defendant in this case, Deborah Carter Woods.[1] In the instant motion, Medicaid asserts that Bryant's remaining claims are barred by judicial estoppel. Because the Court finds that Bryant failed to disclose her claims against Medicaid in her bankruptcy case and that such failure was not inadvertent, summary judgment will be granted.

         I

         Background

         On June 20, 2012, Bryant filed an EEOC complaint alleging unlawful racial discrimination in the termination of her employment with Medicaid. Doc. #53-1 at 12. Subsequently, on February 28, 2013, Bryant filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. Doc. #53-2 at 2.

         In her bankruptcy proceedings, Bryant failed to disclose her then-pending EEOC complaint on her “Schedule B - Personal Property” by indicating “none” in response to the question seeking disclosure of “contingent and liquidated claims of every nature.”[2] Id. at 11. Additionally, in her “Statement of Financial Affairs” submitted to the Bankruptcy Court the same day as her schedules, Bryant failed to disclose that she was a party to an EEOC proceeding in response to the question requiring disclosure of “all suits and administrative proceedings to which the debtor is or was a party within one year immediately preceding the filing of this bankruptcy case.”[3] Id. at 36.

         On April 10, 2013, the EEOC issued Bryant a right-to-sue letter regarding her race discrimination claims against Medicaid. Doc. #53-1 at 13. By order dated June 22, 2013, the Bankruptcy Court confirmed Bryant's bankruptcy plan, ordering that “[a]ll property shall remain property of the estate and shall vest in the debtor only upon dismissal, discharge, or conversion.” In re: Samantha R. Bryant, No. 13-10778-NPO (Bankr. N.D. Miss. June 22, 2013) (Doc. #20 at 2).[4] On July 10, 2013, Bryant filed the instant action in this Court. Doc. #1. On January 8, 2014, the Bankruptcy Court, finding Bryant's estate fully administered, closed her bankruptcy case. Doc. #53-2 at 53.

         II

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “[S]ummary judgment is appropriate only ‘if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Haverda v. Hays Cty., 723 F.3d 586, 591 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) (“A party asserting that a fact cannot be … genuinely disputed must support the assertion by … citing to particular parts of materials in the record ….”). “Once the moving party has carried its summary judgment burden, the opposing party must set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial and may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings.” Beck v. Tex. State Bd. of Dental Exam'rs, 204 F.3d 629, 633 (5th Cir. 2000). In considering a summary judgment motion, the Court must “consider all facts and evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Cass v. City of Abilene, 814 F.3d 721, 728 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Haverda, 723 F.3d at 591).

         III

         Judicial Estoppel

         Judicial estoppel is an equitable affirmative defense.[5] Reed v. City of Arlington, 650 F.3d 571, 576 (5th Cir. 2011) (en banc). “A court should apply judicial estoppel if (1) the position of the party against which estoppel is sought is plainly inconsistent with its prior legal position; (2) the party against which estoppel is sought convinced a court to accept the prior position; and (3) the party did not act inadvertently.” Jethroe v. Omnova Sols., Inc., 412 F.3d 598, 600 (5th Cir. 2005).

         Bryant's claims in this action are plainly inconsistent with her prior position in her bankruptcy proceedings. See Id. at 600 (“Judicial estoppel is particularly appropriate where, as here, a party fails to disclose an asset to a bankruptcy court, but then pursues a claim in a separate tribunal based on that undisclosed asset.”). And, the Bankruptcy Court accepted such inconsistent position by Bryant when it confirmed Bryant's bankruptcy plan. See Id. (“[The bankruptcy] court certainly confirmed Jethroe's plan at least in part based on its assessment of her assets and liabilities.”). In this regard, Bryant correctly concedes that Medicaid has shown the judicial estoppel elements of inconsistent position and judicial acceptance of that position. See Doc. ...


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