Posted on Oct 17, 2013

Mickey Rooney has not been enjoying his retirement very much.  For quite some time he had been bullied and intimidated by his stepson by current (8th) wife Jan, Christopher Aber.  The Daily Mail reports that the 93-year-old actor had been made a prisoner in his own home "due to ‘intimidation and bullying’ and feared being kidnapped."   This resulted in Rooney obtaining a restraining order.

In addition, Mr. Aber had taken over control of Rooney's personal and financial affairs, forcing Rooney to sign financial documents without reading them.  Aber went on to misappropriate money from him as part of the ongoing abuse.  This finally came to a head when Rooney testified in an elderly abuse case before Congress, saying that he feared for his life.  He was later placed under the conservatorship of his lawyer Augustine.

Ultimately, the Abers settled with Rooney's conservator for $2.8 million in damages for the abuse.  The problem is, the couple has now filed for bankruptcy, claiming that they cannot afford to pay.  Although the attorneys are going after the Abers' homeowner's insurance policy, bankruptcy may well not protect the Abers from having to pony up the money.

The bankruptcy code does not allow for the discharge (wiping out) of debts that were incurred as a result of fraud, especially when committed by a fiduciary (Chris Aber was entrusted with Rooney's assets and financial affairs), or through embezzlement or larceny.

Certainly Rooney's attorneys have to pursue the insurance company as a practical matter because that route is more likely to result in payment of the money.  However, the Abers should not necessarily expect to get out of this obligation simply by filing bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy code is there to give a fresh start to an honest debtor.  But in this case, why should someone get the former if he is not the latter.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.