Sabo v. Furr et al
ORDER AFFIRMING BANKRUPTCY COURTS ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO APPROVE STIPULATION TO COMPROMISE CONTROVERSY. Order Closing Case with Notice of Entry 8024. Signed by Judge Robin L. Rosenberg on 8/18/2017. (kpe) NOTICE: If there are sealed documents in this case, they may be unsealed after 1 year or as directed by Court Order, unless they have been designated to be permanently sealed. See Local Rule 5.4 and Administrative Order 2014-69.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
ROBERT C. FURR,
ORDER AFFIRMING BANKRUPTCY COURT’S ORDER GRANTING
MOTION TO APPROVE STIPULATION TO COMPROMISE CONTROVERSY
This is a bankruptcy appeal. On September 13, 2015, Debtor Alberto Candaro (“Debtor”)
filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in the United States District Court for the
Southern District of New York. Venue was later transferred to this Court. Appellee Robert Furr
(“Trustee”) is the permanent trustee of Debtor’s estate. Appellant Adam Sabo (“Appellant”) is
the sole creditor. On November 18, 2016, a Stipulation to Compromise Controversy Between the
Trustee, Debtor, and Other Parties (“Stipulation”) came before Judge Hyman of the Bankruptcy
Court for approval. Appellant objected. Following a hearing, the Bankruptcy Court approved the
Stipulation, overruling Appellant’s objections. Appellant appealed. Finding no reversible error,
the Court now AFFIRMS the Bankruptcy Court’s Order Granting Motion to Approve
Stipulation to Compromise Controversy between the Trustee, Debtor, and Other Parties (“Order
Approving Stipulation”). DE 1.
The facts in this Section largely mirror those set forth in the Stipulation. DE 13-4 at 41030. The Court has confirmed their accuracy by reference to the record, with a particular focus on
the exhibits admitted during the hearing before Judge Hyman. Where this Section supplements
the facts provided in the Stipulation, the Court has so noted.
A. Appellant’s Judgment Against Debtor.
On or about July 16, 1998, Appellant entered into a Stock Purchase Agreement (“SPA”)
with Debtor to purchase 50% of the shares in Candaro Realty Corporation (“Candaro Realty”).
At the time, Debtor was the sole shareholder of Candaro Realty. Candaro Realty’s only asset was
a single parcel of real estate.
In early 2002, Appellant filed a derivative lawsuit (the “Initial Action”) against Debtor in
the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York. See Sabo v. Candaro, Index
No. 101800/02. 1 Appellant alleged Debtor had impermissibly sold the parcel and
misappropriated the proceeds. Debtor asserted three counterclaims against Appellant, including a
breach of contract claim alleging Appellant never paid the amount due under the SPA.
On March 21, 2007, the Honorable Shirley Kornreich issued a Decision and Order
holding that Appellant was a shareholder of Candaro Realty as a matter of law and was,
therefore, entitled to recover half of the proceeds from the sale of the parcel. But the court also
found that Appellant had breached the SPA by failing to pay the full amount due thereunder.
On November 2, 2007, the court entered a final judgment (the “New York Judgment”),
subtracting the amount still due under the SPA, with interest, from the proceeds from the sale of
the parcel to which Appellant was otherwise entitled. Judgment was entered in Appellant’s favor
The case was later removed to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of
Rockland, before being refiled in the County of New York under Index No. 401573/04.
against the Debtor in the amount of $560,304.41 and against Candaro Realty in the amount of
B. Taxi Medallions and Related Litigation
Debtor was also the operator and sole shareholder of two New York taxi cab businesses:
H&M Cab and King Spring Taxi, Inc. (“King Spring”). H&M Cab owned NYC Taxi Medallions
Nos. 7N77 and 7N78 (“7N Medallions”). King Spring owned NYC Taxi Medallions Nos. 4J68
and 4J69 (“4J Medallions”). Allegedly in connection with Debtor’s retirement to Florida, the
four medallions were transferred to businesses owned by Debtor’s son, Heath Candaro:
Bonehead, LLC and Night Owl.
On October 17, 2012 H&M Cab entered into a Medallion Sale Contract with Bonehead.
The transfer of the 7N Medallions to Bonehead was completed through Gold Taxi Brokers, Inc.,
another company owned by Debtor. The transfer was approved by the NYC Taxi and Limousine
Also on October 17, 2012, King Spring entered into a Medallion Sale Contract with
Night Owl. The transfer of the 4J Medallions, like the transfer of the 7N Medallions, was
completed through Gold Taxi Brokers, Inc. This transfer, too, was approved by the NYC Taxi
and Limousine Commission.
Based on the Trustee’s investigation, which included a discussion with Daniel Goodin of
the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, the Trustee estimated the medallions’ value at
$500,000.00 each. Capital One Medallion Finance, a trade name of Capital One Equipment
Finance Corp. (“Capital One”), holds a security interest in the 7N Medallions based upon a Note
and Security Agreement, dated July 25, 2013. The face amount is $1,600,000.00 and the payoff
as of the date of the Stipulation was approximately $1,511,031.49.
Capital One also holds a security interest in the 4J Medallions based upon a Note and
Security Agreement, dated July 25, 2013. The face amount is $1,600,000.00 and the payoff as of
the date of the Stipulation was approximately $1,516,504.66. UCC Financing Statements were
recorded on July 23, 2013, perfecting both interests.
On October 29, 2013 Appellant filed a Verified Complaint in New York state court
against Debtor, Heath Candaro, Debtor’s wife Maxine Candaro, King Spring, H&M Cab,
Bonehead, Night Owl, Heath Management Corp., and Gold Taxi Brokers, Inc. (collectively
“Defendants”). The case—captioned Sabo v. Candaro, et al.—seeks a judgment against
Defendants arising of the conveyances of the 7N and 4J Medallions.
On December 17, 2013 (after the Taxi Medallions had already been transferred and
replacement liens had been placed on them), the New York state court entered an order
restraining Defendants from selling, transferring, or encumbering the stock or ownership interest
in the Taxi Medallions until further order of the New York state court. The case remains
Appellant’s Opening Brief refers to another proceeding in New York state court, which
was filed against Appellant on July 1, 2013. See Heath Management Corp. v. Sabo, Index No.
156039/13. Petitioners Heath Management Corp. and King Spring filed the case seeking to
prohibit Appellant from enforcing against them the judgment Appellant had obtained against
Debtor. This case is not mentioned as part of the recitation of facts in the Stipulation. However, it
is included here because a temporary injunction issued in the course of this case is foundational
to Appellant’s arguments on appeal. On or about July 2, 2013, the state court issued an
Emergency Order to Show Cause with Temporary Restraining Order, which prohibited King
Spring from transferring or encumbering the 4J Medallions pending a hearing. Index No.
156039/13 at DE 11. During the hearing, which was held on July 11, 2013, the court reserved
judgment and continued the injunction pending a ruling on the motion. 2 Id. at 15. The Decision
and Order, of which this Court takes judicial notice, provided that the injunction would expire on
August 21, 2013—twenty days after the Decision and Order appeared on the docket. Id.
C. Boynton Beach Residence
Less than six months after the New York state court entered final judgment against him
in the Initial Action, Debtor purchased in his individual name a home in Boynton Beach, Florida
(“Property”). The Property was purchased for $700,225.00 in cash, with no mortgage. On March
24, 2009, Debtor transferred the Property to himself and his wife via quitclaim deed, for no
consideration. Since then, it has been owned jointly by Debtor and Ms. Candaro, as husband and
wife. On May 11, 2016, Debtor filed an amended Schedule C, claiming the Property as his
exempt homestead pursuant to Florida Constitution, art. X, § 4(a)(1), and exempt as “tenancy by
D. Settlement Terms
On November 18, 2016, Appellee entered into the Stipulation. DE 13-4 at 400-430. The
terms of the settlement include the Debtor waiving his discharge and payment of $200,000.00 to
the Trustee in exchange for the Trustee: (i) waiving any objection to claimed exemptions
regarding the Property; (ii) abandoning the estate’s interest in any non-exempt assets; (iii)
transferring all right, title, and interest in a legal malpractice claim to Ms. Candaro; and (iv)
settling all fraudulent transfer claims related to the taxi medallions. Id. Appellant’s appeal is
focused on the first and fourth listed items. The Trustee testified that he was settling the claims
The Court notes that Judge Hyman declined to admit the transcript reflecting this ruling into
evidence. The Court also notes that the Decision and Order addressed in the next sentence was
not part of the evidence before Judge Hyman. The Court provides these details for context.
the estate has against the Debtor and other settling parties, but that he was not settling
Appellant’s claim against Debtor. The Stipulation explains in detail the reasons underlying
Trustee’s business judgment that the Stipulation is in accord with the four factors set forth by the
Eleventh Circuit in In re Justice Oaks II, Ltd., 898 F.2d 1544 (11th Cir. 1990). Much of that
analysis was reiterated on the record by the Bankruptcy Court when it approved the Stipulation.
LEGAL STANDARD AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
A bankruptcy court deciding whether to approve a proposed settlement must consider the
four factors set forth by the Eleventh Circuit in In re Justice Oaks II, Ltd., 898 F.2d 1544 (11th
Cir. 1990): (a) The probability of success in the litigation; (b) the difficulties, if any, to be
encountered in the matter of collection; (c) the complexity of the litigation involved, and the
expense, inconvenience and delay necessarily attending it; and (d) the paramount interest of the
creditors and a proper deference to their reasonable views in the premises. Id. at 1549.
This Court reviews a bankruptcy court’s findings of fact for clear error. It reviews de
novo conclusions of law. The abuse of discretion standard applies to a bankruptcy court’s
approval of a settlement agreement. A bankruptcy court does not abuse its discretion in
approving a settlement agreement unless the agreement “fall[s] below the lowest point in the
range of reasonableness.” In re Martin, 490 F.3d 1272, 1275 (11th Cir. 2007).
A. The Bankruptcy Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion In Approving The
Stipulation to Compromise Controversy.
Appellant presents three issues on appeal. The first is general. Appellant argues the
Trustee failed to establish that the compromise was fair and reasonable vis-à-vis Appellant, the
sole creditor. The second two arguments are more specific: (i) that the bankruptcy court erred in
approving the compromise because the Trustee failed to adequately investigate whether the
medallions were, in fact, subject to valid liens and, relatedly, whether the medallions’ transfer
was fraudulent; and (ii) that the bankruptcy court erred by approving the compromise despite the
Trustee’s failure to “investigate where the $3.2 million dollars that the debtor’s son, Heath
Candaro, or his solely owned corporations, supposedly received from Capital One . . . actually
went.” DE 16 at 25. The Court begins with Appellant’s more specific arguments.
Appellant argues that the bankruptcy court erred in approving the compromise because
the Trustee failed to adequately investigate whether the medallions were, in fact, subject to valid
liens and, relatedly, whether the medallions’ transfer was fraudulent. He asserts that an adequate
investigation of these issues would have revealed the existence of an injunction rendering both
the liens and transfers invalid. That argument is, however, belied by the record.
Appellant testified: “[T]here are no liens on the medallions.” Hrng. Trans. at 56:3-4.
Judge Hyman responded: “Okay. And I’ve asked you to show me why there aren’t liens.” Id. at
56:5-6. Appellant explained that there are no liens (and that the transfer of the medallions was
fraudulent) because the judge presiding over his state court action in New York “had put a
[Temporary Restraining Order] on the medallions on July 2nd [of 2013].” Id. at 7-12. Judge
Hyman repeatedly asked Appellant for proof of a Temporary Restraining Order. See id. at 57:89. Appellant responded: “[T]hey didn’t provide yourself [sic] with that document, with all due
respect, so I can’t argue it.” Id.
Appellant’s objections reference “Exhibit 5, the TRO” as evidence of the injunction. This
document was admitted into evidence during the hearing before Judge Hyman. But Exhibit 5,
which was entered during the course of the state court case against Appellant, only prohibited the
transfer and encumbrance of the taxi medallions by King Spring prior to a hearing ultimately
held on July 11, 2013. DE 13-4 at 463; id. at 471. At the hearing, the state court stated: “I am
going to continue a TRO here only to the extent of directing that King Spring Taxi . . . is not to
sell, transfer, or encumber its assets.” Id.
However, the medallions owned by King Spring had already been transferred on May 8,
2013—several months before the hearing. Hrng. Ex. 18. Nor has Appellant produced persuasive
evidence that the injunction impacted the subsequent liens. Liens were placed on the medallions
after July 11, 2013. But they were encumbered by Bonehead. The judge’s oral ruling only
prohibited King Spring from encumbering the medallions. Bonehead was not even a party to the
case. Appellant also argues “[t]he liens that Capital One placed on the medallions are invalid 
because they were not placed through [Taxi and Limousine Commission].” DE 16 at 24. But
Appellant has produced no evidence on this point.
Next, Appellant contends the bankruptcy court erred by approving the compromise
despite the Trustee’s failure to “investigate where the $3.2 million dollars that the debtor’s son,
Heath Candaro, or his solely owned corporations, supposedly received from Capital One . . .
actually went.” DE 16 at 25. The paragraph of argument that follows this statement appears
almost totally unrelated, with the exception of the concluding sentences, which read: “Having
access to all that information, including tracking of the cash from the loans, would have been
important in determining whether $200,000 was sufficient or whether the amount asked should
have been much higher. There is [sic] literally millions of untraced dollars.” DE 16 at 26. Heath
Candaro is not the debtor. He is the debtor’s son. Appellant has not presented any authority for
the proposition the Trustee’s failure to trace monies lent to the Debtor’s son gives rise to
Finally, the Court turns to Appellant’s general objection that the Trustee failed to
establish that the compromise was fair and reasonable vis-à-vis Appellant, the sole creditor. As
noted above, a bankruptcy court must consider four factors when deciding to approve or
disapprove a proposed settlement: (a) the probability of success in the litigation; (b) the
difficulties, if any, to be encountered in the matter of collection; (c) the complexity of the
litigation involved, and the expense, inconvenience and delay necessarily attending it; and,
finally (d) the paramount interest of the creditors and a proper deference to their reasonable
views in the premises. In re Justice Oaks II, Ltd., 896 F.2d 1544, 1550 (11th Cir. 1990). Judge
Hyman found all four of these factors favored approving the settlement.
Judge Hyman found success in the litigation unlikely. First, he addressed claims
regarding the Debtor’s home. Judge Hyman acknowledged that, under the Bankruptcy Code, the
Trustee has a right to object to that claim of exemption. Hrng. Trans. 78:21-24. However, he
ultimately credited the Trustee’s testimony that any assertion Debtor is not entitled to claim the
home as exempt would be very difficult in light of the transfer. Id. at 79:2-5. Next, Judge Hyman
turned to the fraudulent conveyance claims regarding the medallions. The Trustee testified that
success on these claims was unlikely because the transfers were executed between corporate
entities, so the corporate veil would have to be pierced. Id. at 80:12-14. Judge Hyman observed
that, as an easier alternative, the companies could be put into bankruptcy. Id. at 80:16-18. But he
nonetheless observed success was not likely given other hurdles (e.g. the issue of whether,
despite the passage of time, the corporations in bankruptcy would have a right to sue). Id. at
80:18-23. Appellant has not put forward any evidence or argument that disturbs Judge Hyman’s
conclusion that “the probability of success on the litigation is not assured in any way, shape, or
form . . . .” Id. at 82:13-15.
Next, Judge Hyman concluded substantial difficulties would likely be encountered in
collecting on claims related to the medallions. 3 All of the record evidence supports Judge
Hyman’s conclusion that, even if the fraudulent transfer claim succeeded, collectability would be
nearly impossible because there is no equity in the medallions. Id. at 81:10-21. The injunction
that Appellant asserts invalidates the liens does not move the needle. It forbids King Spring from
encumbering the medallions, but King Spring had transferred them to Bonehead months earlier.
Judge Hyman concluded that the litigation would be complex for many of the reasons
discussed in addressing the first factor. He also noted that developing the required facts would
also result in inconvenience and delay because the underlying events occurred in New York. Id.
at 83:1-6. Finally, Judge Hyman noted that the Trustee had already incurred $85,000.00 in costs,
which Judge Hyman predicted would “double or triple” if the Trustee pursued any of the
“difficult, expensive” causes of action on the table. Id. at 82:21-25; 83:1-2.
Finally, Judge Hyman turned to the interests of the sole creditor: Appellant. He
emphasized that the Trustee was not settling the claim Appellant has against the Debtor. Instead,
“[a]ll the Trustee is doing is settling the estate’s causes of action.”
Id. at 83:7-16. He
determined, in light of the other Justice Oaks factors, that a monetary settlement of $200,000.00
for the estate’s claim of homestead exemption, other minor exemptions, and the estate’s causes
of action related to the medallions fell above the “lowest point in the range of reasonableness.”
Id. at 83:7-21. Appellant has not demonstrated otherwise on appeal.
Judge Hyman did not make an explicit finding regarding the home.
The Stipulation approved by the Bankruptcy Court does not “fall below the lowest point
in the range of reasonableness.” In re Martin, 490 F.3d 1272, 1275 (11th Cir. 2007).
Accordingly, the Court AFFIRMS the Bankruptcy Court’s Order Granting Motion to Approve
Stipulation to Compromise Controversy between the Trustee, Debtor, and Other Parties. DE 1.
The Clerk of Court shall CLOSE THIS CASE. All pending motions are DENIED AS MOOT,
all hearings CANCELLED, and all deadlines TERMINATED.
DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers, Fort Pierce, Florida, this 18th day of August,
ROBIN L. ROSENBERG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Copies furnished to:
Counsel of Record
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