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$20 million verdict can't keep couple from filing Chapter 7

For many people, winning a lawsuit with a large monetary verdict is the answer to their prayer. While they have likely faced adversity to be in a position to win a case against a party that had seriously wronged them, the windfall from receiving payouts for damages might help to soften the blow at least somewhat.

Such was the case for a Missouri couple who won a $20 million verdict in 2004 because of injuries the husband sustained while working in a popcorn plant. The man was exposed to a chemical used in making butter flavoring; he developed breathing problems and doctors said he would need a double-lung transplant someday. The condition, known as popcorn lung, has spawned a handful of lawsuits around the U.S.

That $20 million, however, did not all go to the couple. At the time of the award, the man said the law firm that represented him received more than one-third of the amount; another portion was set aside for other workers at the plant where the man had worked.

Eight years later, however, the couple has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It seems as though they were not able to live within their suddenly less modest means; they built a luxury house valued at nearly $4 million and by the time of their filing had at least $600,000 in liabilities, including a legal claim of more than $100,000 by the contractor who had built their home.

Bankruptcy is sometimes a necessary legal maneuver for people whose personal financial situations get out of hand. This can happen even to people who think they have a handle on their finances.

Source: Press-Republican, "Couple that won $20 million lawsuit files for bankruptcy," Oct. 21, 2012

• Our firm handles cases similar to the one described in this post. To learn more about our practice, visit our Memphis personal bankruptcy page.

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