On June 29, 2000, Debtors filed a Motion for Sanctions Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §
362(h), which provides for sanctions for violations of the automatic stay.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Under 11 U.S.C. § 362(h), the Court may grant actual damages, costs and fees,
and punitive damages to any individual injured by a willful violation of the automatic
stay. Debtors argue that Paxon willfully violated the automatic stay by acting to
foreclose their lien on the vehicle after Debtors’ second petition for bankruptcy was filed.
Debtors also contend that Paxon conducted the sale of the vehicle in a commercially
unreasonable manner, thus violating Florida Statutes § 679.504.
DEBTORS’ CLAIM FOR SANCTIONS UNDER 11 U.S.C. § 362(H)
The Court first addresses Paxon’s specious contention that Debtors had no rights
in the vehicle once repossessed. The bankruptcy estate includes property of the debtor
that has been seized by a creditor prior to the filing of a petition. See United States v.
Whiting Pools, Inc., 462 U.S. 198, 208 (1983). The determination of whether the
property was in fact “property of the debtor” is a question of state law. See Southtrust
Bank of Alabama v. Thomas (In re Thomas), 883 F.2d 991, 995 (11th Cir. 1989).
Paxon contends that, under the Court’s interpretation of Florida law in In re
Burnsed, 224 B.R. 496 (Bankr. M.D. Fla. 1998), the repossession completely eradicated
Debtors’ interest in the vehicle. Paxon’s reliance on the Burnsed decision is misplaced.
Burnsed involved default on a title loan rather than a purchase-money loan such as the
debt in the instant case. See Id. Title loans differ greatly from ordinary secured
obligations. See Id. The Florida statutes classify title lienors as “secondhand dealers,”
thereby grouping title lienors with pawn shops and recycled metal dealers. See § 538.003