Can Real Estate Property Lost Due to Unpaid Taxes Be Recovered Through Bankruptcy?

A. Thomas DeWoskin

By A. Thomas DeWoskin



home saleEvery state has a statute authorizing the counties within it to foreclose on or sell real estate which has delinquent taxes owed on the property. In Missouri, for instance, counties are allowed to conduct sales of such properties once the real estate taxes have been delinquent for three years. The exact procedure may vary from county to county.

The purchaser at a tax sale will likely pay much less than the property is worth. If the previous owner should file a bankruptcy case, can the bankruptcy court set aside the sale as “fraudulent,” in the sense that the property was transferred from the owner for less than the true value of the property?

In 1994, in BFP v. Resolution Trust, 511 U.S. 531, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that properly conducted mortgage or Deed of Trust foreclosures cannot be fraudulent transfers because, although it is very rare for a foreclosure sale price to be anywhere close to a market price, notice of the sale is published and members of the public can attend the sale and purchase the property if they care to.

However, the fraudulent transfer question is much closer if the transfer is by tax sale. The notice of the sale is narrower than even a mortgage foreclosure, and the chances of the property selling for a fair value is even less.

So, can a sale or foreclosure for delinquent taxes be set aside as constructively fraudulent? This question has given rise to a split among the Circuits. The Sixth Circuit, in the recent case of Lowry v. Southfield Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (In re Lowry), 20-1712 (6th Cir. Dec. 27, 2021), found that the BFP reasoning did not apply to tax sales. This brought the circuit split even, with three circuits (the Fifth, Ninth and Tenth) finding that BFP does apply to tax sales and three circuits (the Third, Sixth and Seventh), holding that it does not.

The Bottom Line: Continue reading »

Business Owners: Private Company in Missouri Wins Challenge to Its COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



vaccine mandateMissouri has its first decision on a challenge to a private company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The U.S. District Court of Western Missouri heard a petition for an injunction against Tyson Foods’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate and the company prevailed. In Reese v. Tyson Foods, Inc., Clifton Reese, a Tyson Foods employee, had requested a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction against Tyson Foods regarding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In Reese, Tyson announced a vaccine mandate that all employees nationwide to be fully vaccinated by specified dates. The policy stated that employees seeking religious or medical accommodations should contact Tyson human resources “immediately.” Clifton Reese waited a month before making his request for religious accommodation. He refused the company’s accommodation of unpaid leave, but Tyson formally notified Reese that his religious accommodation was granted with the following stipulations:

  1. The accommodation status could change at any time.
  2. Because his accommodation of unpaid leave of absence was not job-protected, the position could be filled if necessary.
  3. If providing the accommodation was an undue hardship to the employer, the accommodation could be revoked. The employee would then have to comply with the mandate or be subject to termination.

Reese filed a complaint with the Missouri Human Rights Commission and sent a demand letter to Tyson to continue his employment under existing COVID-19 restrictions to receive his full bonus, salary, and benefits. During the hearing, the Reese admitted he did not understand benefits he would receive during unpaid leave, such as continuation of health benefits, the ability to look for new employment within or outside of the company, and keeping earned bonuses. Continue reading »

Missouri Employee Not Entitled to Injunctive Relief Against Private Employer’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



vaccine mandateRecently, Clifton Reese, an employee of Tyson Foods, requested a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction against his employer regarding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Reese v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

On August 3, 2021, Tyson Foods announced a vaccine mandate which required all employees nationwide to be fully vaccinated by specified dates. Moreover, the policy requested that employees seeking religious or medical accommodations contact human resources “immediately” to allow Tyson time to consider each employee’s request to meet company deadlines. Despite the notification to contact human resources immediately, Reese waited a month before contacting human resources seeking a religious exemption.

In response to his request, Tyson offered Reese an accommodation of an unpaid leave of absence, which he rejected. Tyson then confirmed Reese’s request for a religious exemption from the company vaccine mandate had been granted, the status of the accommodation was subject to change, and if the accommodation was an unpaid leave of absence that was not job-protected, “it may be necessary to fill your position.” Tyson also explained that if providing the accommodation was an undue hardship to the company, the accommodation could be revoked, and Reese would have to either comply with the mandate or be subject to termination.

In response to Tyson’s confirmation of the accommodation, Reese filed a complaint with the Missouri Commission of Human Rights. Reese hired an attorney and sent a demand letter to Tyson demanding that Tyson continue Reese’s employment “with the already existing COVID-19 restrictions in place,” and that he receive his full bonus, salary, and benefits. Tyson said they would review the demand. Continue reading »

Private Employer Mandatory Vaccination Policy With Medical and Religious Accommodations Is Allowed

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



covid vaccineRecently, a group of healthcare workers in Kentucky requested a Temporary Restraining Order and/or a Preliminary Injunction from the U.S. District Court of Eastern Kentucky against an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate in Beckerich, et al. v. St. Elizabeth Medical Center, et al. At question was whether a private employer is allowed to modify its employment conditions to require employees to be vaccinated in response to the unprecedented global pandemic known as COVID-19.

In Beckerich, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and physicians group implemented a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for its employees. Under the policy, employees could avoid the mandatory vaccination by submitting a request for a medical exemption or sincerely held religious beliefs before October 1, 2021. The policy also indicated that failure of an employee to comply without an accepted exemption could result in termination. The employees argued that the policy violated their constitutional rights and claimed St. Elizabeth’s had not approved religious and medical exemptions to the vaccination policy in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Regarding the ADA claims, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning noted private employers are required to offer medical and religious accommodations but the employees in Beckerich failed to show that St. Elizabeth had not complied with the ADA reasonable accommodations. The evidence revealed St. Elizabeth granted medical exemptions 13% of the time and granted deferments 61% of the time. Only 14% were denied with 10% pending. Judge Bunning noted St. Elizabeth had granted more medical accommodations than there were plaintiffs in the case. No evidence was provided showing that over 5,000 medical and religious exemptions had been requested. The judge determined the employees had very little chance at success on the merits because they failed to meet the key elements to prove an ADA claim.

Regarding Title VII claims, Judge Bunning noted the employees failed to suggest they could raise a preliminary case of religious discrimination. None of the named plaintiffs had been denied a religious exemption with only one marked pending but St. Elizabeth’s noted that request was approved.  Because no religious exemptions were denied, the employees were not able to prove any religious discrimination. Continue reading »

Modifications of Telehealth and Interstate License Compacts Due to COVID-19

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



telemedicineIn response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have modified licensure requirements and renewal policies for medical providers to respond to the pandemic, including out-of-state license requirements for telemedicine.

Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is authorized to make declarations during certain emergencies regarding immunity from liability under the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act). In 2020 and 2021, HHS added several amendments to the PREP Act including countermeasures for treatment and prevention of COVID-19, interstate telehealth expansion related to COVID-19, and liability protection for medical providers of COVID-19 related services and products.

Covered Persons

Under the PREP Act, covered persons include “manufacturers, distributors, program planners, and qualified persons, and their officials, agents, and employees, and the United States.” To increase access to vaccines, Amendments 5 through 8 expand the categories of covered persons who  may “prescribe, dispense, and administer COVID-19 vaccines” to include: Continue reading »

Essential Points to Follow When Entering Into or Renewing Your Lease

Michael J. McKitrick

By Michael J. McKitrick



leaseIn spite of the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, your lease remains critical to your business. Commercial leases are complex transactions and should be undertaken with great care.

Following these basic points will make the lease renewal or new lease go smoothly. Continue reading »

Is a Two-Year Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims Coming Soon to Missouri?

Steven A. Ahillen

By Steven A. Ahillen



Authored by Steven A. Ahillen with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, law clerk

A change in the statute of limitations on actions for personal injury is working its way through the Missouri Senate. Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), introduced by Senator Dan Hegeman, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is waiting full consideration of the Senate. SB 3 states that any personal injury actions have a statute of limitation of two years from the time of injury.

The current law in Missouri says that actions for personal injury must be brought within five years of the injury occurring. If passed,  the change in the statute of limitations applies only to causes of action for personal injury that accrue on or after August 28, 2021. Continue reading »

Potential Changes to the Collateral Source Rule in Missouri

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



Authored by Katherine M. Flett with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, law clerk

personal injuryThe Missouri House is considering a bill that would modify the determination of when evidence of collateral source payments in civil actions is admissible. Sponsored by Representative Alex Riley, Missouri House Bill 577 (HB 577) seeks to amend the Missouri Collateral Source Rule 9 (Section 490.715, RSMo.) and clarifies that the rule applies only to parties named in the plaintiff’s case. Approved by the House Committee and placed back on the formal perfection calendar in May, the bill is waiting to be placed on the House Formal Calendar for floor debate.

Proposed Changes to the Missouri Collateral Source Rule

HB 577 states that “in any action wherein a plaintiff seeks to recover for personal injury, bodily injury, or death, any party may introduce evidence of the actual cost of the medical care or treatment rendered to a plaintiff, or to the person for whose injury or death plaintiff seeks to recover.” It goes on to explain that “actual cost of the medical care or treatment shall be reasonable, necessary, and a proximate result of the negligence or fault of any party.”

The exception to this rule is Subsection 2. Under the bill, any part or all of a plaintiff’s special damages paid for by the defendant, the insurer, and/or authorized representative, (or any combination of these) are not recoverable from the defendant in the plaintiff’s claims for special damages.

Another change to the rule involves which amounts billed can be submitted as evidence. Evidence of any amount billed for medical care or treatment that has been “discounted, written off, or satisfied by payment of an amount less than the amount billed” may be not be admitted. However, the actual cost of medical care or treatment provided and any contracted discounts, price reductions or write offs may be admitted as “evidence relevant to the potential cost of future treatment.”

Potential Effects of Changes to the Missouri Collateral Source Rule Continue reading »

Revisions to Punitive Damages in Missouri

Lauren L. Wood

By Lauren L. Wood



Authored by Lauren L. Wood with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, law clerk

personal injuryChanges have been made to punitive damages claims in civil actions filed in Missouri on or after August 28, 2020.

Under the revisions, Missouri Revised Statute Section 510.261 now prohibits parties from making a claim for punitive damages in their initial pleading in a civil action. Any claimant who wishes to add a punitive damages claim to a civil action must file a written motion to amend 120 days prior to the pretrial conference, or, if no conference is scheduled, 120 days prior to trial, seeking leave to bring a claim for punitive damages. The claimant seeking leave must provide exhibits, affidavits, and discovery materials establishing a reasonable basis for the recovery of punitive damages. Any party opposing leave may submit admissible evidence to demonstrate that the standards for a punitive damage award have not been met. The court may grant leave to add the punitive damages claim if it determines that a judge or jury could reasonably conclude, based on clear and convincing evidence, that the standards for a punitive damage award have been met. This statute has the effect of preventing meritless claims being made in litigation as well as saving both the time and money of the parties involved.

Substantive Changes and Clarifications

After clearing the hurdle of obtaining leave to bring a punitive damages claim, a claimant must satisfy the statute’s requirements to receive an award of punitive damages. To do so, RSMo  510.261(1) requires the claimant to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant “intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.” The revised statute does three things:

  1. Codifies the original common law regarding punitive damages. In Klingman v. Holmes, 54 Mo. 304, 308 (1873), the first Missouri Supreme Court case allowing an award of punitive damages, the Court held that exemplary damages are only appropriate where an evil intent has manifested itself in acts. The court reasoned that under common law there must have been intent, or positive proof of malice, to justify granting punitive damages.
  2. Clarifies the requisite mental state of the defendant, to intentionally harm without cause or with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others. This gives the judge or fact finder a clear standard for determining whether the claimant is entitled to punitive damages.
  3. Codifies the “clear and convincing” burden of proof standard. The Missouri Supreme Court has previously adopted this standard, but it had yet to be codified.[1],[2] The clear and convincing burden of proof standard falls within the middle ground of the ordinary civil burden of proof standard, preponderance of the evidence, and the criminal law standard, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nominal Damages Continue reading »

Eviction/Foreclosure Moratorium Changes and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Final Rule on Foreclosure

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumOn June 24, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) extended its eviction moratorium order which was set to expire on June 30, 2021.  According to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the eviction moratorium will now expire July 31, 2021 and is intended to be the final extension.

Just a few days later, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by a group of landlords to allow a federal judge’s decision to block the eviction moratorium to go into effect nationwide while litigation disputes continued to vacate a stay order from Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich that declared the CDC moratorium unlawful (see “Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich Vacates CDC Nationwide Eviction Moratorium”). Washington-based U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in favor of the landlords in May 2021 but put her ruling on hold pending the government’s appeal in the case. The landlords appealed to the Supreme Court after a lower appellate court rejected their request to unfreeze Judge Friedrich’s ruling. The landlord groups, led by the Alabama Association of Realtors, sued to challenge the moratorium, arguing that the CDC exceeded its authority under a federal law called the Public Health Service Act. They wrote in court papers: “Congress never gave the CDC the staggering amount of power it now claims.”  The groups said an eviction ban is no longer needed for public health reasons in light of declining COVID-19 cases and deaths. They also cited the CDC’s May 13, 2021 announcement that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors. Continue reading »