Judicial Estoppel can bar Personal Injury Lawsuit

Thursday, June 24, 2004
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that judicial estoppel can bar prosecution of a personal injury lawsuit. In the instant case, plaintiff crewmember was allegedly injured while on board defendant’s crewboat. Prior to filing his personal injury action, plaintiff and his wife filed for bankruptcy. During the pendency of the bankruptcy proceeding, plaintiff failed to update his listing of assets to include the pending lawsuit. When defendant found out about the bankruptcy, it moved to replace plaintiff with the bankruptcy trustee as the real party in interest, but by that time the bankruptcy had been finalized. The court held that that plaintiff can not take one position in bankruptcy – that he has no pending claims – and then a contrary position in his personal injury litigation – that he is entitled to a large personal injury award (at which point he has no debtors). Superior Crewboats Inc. v. Hudspeath, No. 03-30692 (5th Cir., June 18, 2004).

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