Tweeting, Facebook posting, emailing, and even cybersquatting on website domain names can and will affect the outcomes of a pending bankruptcy case. As tempting as it is to post negative status updates about your creditors or of a debtor’s balance sheet or personal identification information, a person’s best bet is to let knowledgeable and experienced bankruptcy attorneys handle the matter. Two recent bankruptcy cases (and probably more to come) clearly have demonstrated that it does not pay to announce to the world your involvement in a pending bankruptcy case or attempt to settle the score through electronic means.
A Fourth Circuit case, In Re Jessica J. Bolin, 22 CBN 12, 2012 WL 4062807 (Bankr. D.S.C. 9/13/12) found that email and Facebook notifications involving information pertinent to a pending bankruptcy case do not bode well. The website designer debtor listed a business owner that had commissioned the debtor to make a website as a creditor in the designer/debtor’s bankruptcy. The business owner creditor received notice of the debtor’s bankruptcy filing and answered with harassing and negative emails demanding her money. Additionally, the jilted business owner/creditor conveniently leveraged the debtor’s social security number and posted nasty remarks on the debtor’s personal and business Facebook page, damaging the debtor’s business further. The creditor ignored the cease and desist requests trying, as hard as she could, to collect the debt owed to her. Eventually, the judge found for the debtor, holding that the creditor violated the automatic stay provisions and had committed sanctionable offenses with the Facebook posts and harassing emails. #gottalovepunitivedamages
In Her Inc., et al., v. Barlow (In re David E. and Maria E. Barlow), 22 CBN 20, 2012 WL 4465503 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 9/26/12), a Sixth Circuit case, a defendant debtor cybersquatted when he registered five Internet domain names in bad faith to “prove a point”. The debtor-husband acquired domain names that were similar to the plaintiffs’ names and linked website visitors to the plaintiffs’ commercial competitors and critical and disparaging emails that attacked the plaintiffs’ businesses. The debtor-husband was found to have cybersquatted- that is- registering or using a domain name identical or confusingly similar to another’s registered trademark or service mark with the bad faith intent of making a profit under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. The plaintiffs were awarded $120,000 in statutory damages, as well as attorney’s fees. The damages were not dischargeable under Section 523 (a)(6) and the Court noted that such fees “are required only in exceptional cases where there is malicious, fraudulent, willful, or deliberate infringement.” #cybersquattingmeansheftystatutorydamages
So instead of damaging or completely throwing your pending bankruptcy case out to the delight of your adversarial creditor, you should “like” Hoglund Law on Facebook and leave the Internet and social media for their intended uses- funny cat videos and tweeting about that awesome dinner your significant other made for you the other night. #Hoglundlaw=Minnesota’spremierbankruptcyattorneys
Sources: In Re Jessica J. Bolin, 22 CBN 12, 2012 WL 4062807 (Bankr. D.S.C. 9/13/12)
Her Inc., et al., v. Barlow (In re David E. and Maria E. Barlow), 22 CBN 20, 2012 WL 4465503 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 9/26/12)
Consumer Bankruptcy News Volume 23 Issue 1, October 23, 2012