U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Ninth Circuit Rule Against Attorney’s Fees In Bankruptcy

In 1991, the Ninth Circuit held that an unsecured creditor is precluded from recovering attorney’s fees authorized by a prepetition contract if such fees were incurred in postpetition litigation involving issues peculiar to bankruptcy law rather than basic contract enforcement questions. In re Fobian, 951 F.2d 1149 (9th Cir. 1991).

Resolving a split in the circuits, the Supreme Court held in Travelers Cas. & Surety Co. of America v. Pacific Gas & Elec. Co., 127 S. Ct. 1199 (U.S. Mar. 20, 2007), that the Fobian rule was not supported by the Bankruptcy Code. Finding that “claims enforceable under applicable state law will be allowed in bankruptcy unless they are expressly disallowed, the Court held that the absence of textual support for the Ninth Circuit’s rule was “fatal,” and it rejected the applicable lower court precedents.

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