United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
the court is the appeal of Louise Bentivegna
(“Bentivegna”) from a May 31, 2017 order entered
by the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania. That order provided that Bentivegna could not
occupy residential real property located at 646 Stiles Hill
Road, Sabinsville, Pennsylvania and further ordered
Bentivegna to remove all personal belongings from that
property by June 30, 2017.
exercise appellate review of final orders entered by the
Bankruptcy Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(a). We
review the legal determinations of the Bankruptcy Court de
novo. In re Prof'l Ins. Mgmt., 285 F.3d 268, 282
(3d Cir. 2002). The Bankruptcy Court's findings of fact
are reviewed for clear error. Id. Bankruptcy Court
decisions which involve the exercise of discretion are
reviewed for abuse of discretion. Id.
initially filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition on April 26,
2016. See In re Bentivegna, No. 16-12925 (Bankr.
E.D. Pa.). The petition was converted to Chapter 7 on August
19, 2016. Bentivegna's bankruptcy estate partially owns
two parcels of real property located in Potter County,
Pennsylvania, one of which includes the Stiles Hill Road
property. According to the record in the Bankruptcy Court
matter, this real property was Bentivegna's summer
residence. Bentivegna's primary residence was sold at
sheriff's sale and, as of the filing of this appeal, she
resides with her daughter.
order dated April 19, 2017, the Bankruptcy Court authorized
the trustee to employ a broker to market and sell the Stiles
Hill Road property. The Bankruptcy Court also entered an
order that day approving a settlement agreement between the
trustee and a co-owner of the Stiles Hill Road property,
whereby the trustee was authorized to sell the property.
These orders were filed after a hearing in which Bentivegna
was present and represented by counsel who made objections
but offered no evidence. Bentivegna did not appeal either
in preparation for the marketing and sale of the property,
the trustee moved for an order prohibiting Bentivegna from
occupying the property and requiring her to remove all
personal belongings. After a hearing, the Bankruptcy Court
granted the trustee's motion on May 31, 2017. Bentivegna
filed her appeal of that order on June 14, 2017.
the appeal was pending, Bentivegna failed to make
preparations to comply with the June 30th deadline to remove
personal property set by the Bankruptcy Court. On July 5,
2017, after a telephone conference with counsel, the
Bankruptcy Court entered an order enforcing the terms of the
May 31, 2017 order and authorizing the trustee to retain an
estate clean-out company to remove all personal property.
10, 2017, the undersigned denied without prejudice the motion
of Bentivegna to stay the Bankruptcy Court's May 31, 2017
order on the ground that Bentivegna had failed first to seek
a stay in the Bankruptcy Court. See Fed. R. Bank. P.
8007. Bentivegna then filed a motion for an emergency stay in
the Bankruptcy Court, and that motion was denied on July 13,
2017. Bentivegna did not refile a motion for an emergency
stay in this court.
September 20, 2017, after a hearing, the Bankruptcy Court
entered an order approving the sale of the Stiles Hill Road
property. Bentivegna has filed a separate appeal of that
order. See In re Bentivegna, No. 17-4418 (E.D. Pa.
Oct. 3, 2017). The Bankruptcy Court denied the motion of
Bentivegna to stay the sale order pending appeal, and
Bentivegna has not sought an emergency stay in this
appeal, Bentivegna contends that she has a right to possess
the Stiles Hill Road under state law and asserts that the
property should not be sold. Because the property should not
be sold, Bentivegna contends that she should not be required
to vacate the property and to remove all personal belongings.
to 11 U.S.C. § 521(a)(4), a debtor has a duty to
surrender to the trustee all property of the bankruptcy
estate. The trustee, after notice and a hearing, may then
use, lease, or sell the property. Id. § 363. A
debtor may exempt certain property from the bankruptcy
estate, including a portion of the debtor's interest in
his or her primary residence. Id. § 522(d)(1).
Absent such exemption, property of the estate includes
“all legal or equitable interests of the debtor in
property as of the commencement of the case.”
Id. § 541(a)(1). The Bankruptcy Court denied
Bentivegna's claim to exempt the Stiles Hill Road
property, and she did not appeal that order. As such, the