What Is Replevin? Rare Car Stolen From A Milwaukee Man Provides An Unusual But Perfect Example

“Replevin” is the epitome of legalese. It’s Latin mixed with French. It’s not used in everyday conversation. But it is often thrown around in bankruptcy cases as if everyone knows exactly what it means.

The truth is most people don’t know what it is.

So what is replevin? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, replevin is “an action originating in common law and now largely codified by which a plaintiff having a right in personal property which is claimed to be wrongfully taken or detained by the defendant seeks to recover possession of the property and sometimes to obtain damages for the wrongful detention.”

Breaking this definition down is helpful. It’s a legal action. It is brought by a plaintiff who believes the defendant has wrongfully taken (stolen) or detained (failed to return) a piece of personal property (which means any sort of thing, but not land). The plaintiff wants the property back, and may also want paid for the hassle.

Right now, there is an unusual case pending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court that provides a good example of how a replevin action actually works.

In 2001, thieves broke into the old Monarch Plastic Products factory on Milwaukee’s lower east side and stole a disassembled French sports car that its elderly owner had been trying to restore since 1967. The car, a 1938 Talbot Lago T150 C teardrop coupe, was worth around $7 million.

Not only was the car stolen, so were all the documents and spare parts related to it. Other valuable items in the factory-turned-garage were not touched. There was no sign of a forced entry, but in a sinister turn of events the phone lines to the owner’s house were cut the same day the car was stolen.

In 2005, the car’s owner passed away. He left his entire estate, including the rights to the stolen car, to his cousin, Richard “Skip” Mueller. A few years later, Mueller sold a majority share of the right to own the car to Joseph L. Ford III, who has experience tracking down rare stolen cars.

Then things went quiet, and it seemed like the car was gone forever. But in 2016, the authorities alerted Mueller and Ford that someone was trying to title a now completely restored Talbot with the same chassis number in Illinois!

Mueller and Ford demanded the return of the stolen car, but the man who had purchased it, Rick Workman, refused. Workman claims he had no idea the car was stolen. He purchased it in good faith from a Europen dealer.

So in February 2017, Mueller and Ford filed a replevin action against the company Workman used to purchase the car, TL90108, LLC.

It’s a case that fits the definition of replevin to a T. Mueller and Ford, the plaintiffs, are the rightful owners of a piece of personal property, the Talbot. They are suing the defendant, TL90108, LLC, for the return of the vehicle.

Unfortunately, this case is not as simple as the definition of replevin makes it sound. Wisconsin has a six year statute of limitations in replevin cases. A replevin action must be filed within six years from when the property was first “converted” aka stolen or wrongfully detained.

Mueller and Ford think the countdown clock should have started when they demanded Workman return the car and he refused. Workman says the clock had already run out by that time because it started the day the car was stolen.

It is unclear who is right, so the Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case and decide when the statute of limitations clock starts ticking in a replevin case. Our firm represents clients in replevin cases, so we are keeping a close eye on this case.

Does Declaring Bankruptcy Eliminate Tax Debt?

“…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

— Benjamin Franklin

This quip of Franklin’s is a lasting reminder that Uncle Sam always takes his cut. It was true at the close of the American Revolution, and it remains true now. Not even filing for bankruptcy can help you avoid paying most taxes.

You said “most…”

Whether you can wipe out tax debts by filing for bankruptcy depends on the type of taxes you owe and the type of bankruptcy you file.

Chapter 7

If you are an individual who is eligible to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, you may be able to get past due federal income taxes forgiven. Other taxes, like state level taxes or payroll taxes cannot be discharged.

In order to have your federal income tax debt discharged, you must be able to show:

  • You did not commit fraud or willfully evade paying your taxes.
  • The debt is at least three years old.
  • You filed a tax return for the debt you wish to discharge at least two years before filing for bankruptcy.
  • The income tax debt was assessed by the IRS at least 240 days before you filed your bankruptcy petition, or was not assessed before you filed. This is known as the “240-day rule.”

Our firm’s experienced bankruptcy attorneys can help you determine if you meet these criteria, and if not, what other options are available to you.

Chapter 11 & Chapter 13

If you don’t qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or you are filing on behalf of a business, whether your tax debt is dischargeable is a much more complicated question that can’t be easily summarized in a blog post. If this is the situation you are in, the Hanson & Payne team would be happy to meet with you and advise you.

Other Options

If you are struggling to pay off tax debt, and that is what is pushing you toward bankruptcy, there may be another path you can take.

The IRS is often willing to enter into a repayment plan with taxpayers that cannot afford to pay off all their tax debt in one fell swoop. If you think you can eventually pay off your taxes, this can be a great option. You may, however, still be on the hook for late fees and interest.

If you do not believe you will be able to pay off all of your tax debt, but you could pay off a significant chunk of it right now, or over time, you may want to make what is known as an offer in compromise. This is an agreement to pay a lower amount now instead of the full amount later. The IRS is open to this when it believes the amount you are offering is as much as it can reasonably expect to collect over time. To put it another way, the IRS fears you will not pay up in full, so it will take what it can get.

Get the help you need.

Bankruptcy law and tax law are both complicated. We recommend contacting an experienced bankruptcy law firm if you are even remotely considering filing for bankruptcy because of your tax debt.

Industry Shifts Leading to Bankruptcy

Shifts in industries can often lead to major changes. Supply goes up, demand goes down, other factors come in, and an industry changes as a result. Sometimes, these shifts can cause things like widespread bankruptcy among industry participants. Sometimes, the string of bankruptcy is limited to a specific region. For example, the Wisconsin frac sand industry is in the midst of a major downturn. For a number of reasons, major producers of frac sand in the state are facing closure and bankruptcy.

Wisconsin Frac Sand Producer Faces Bankruptcy as Industry Shifts

Between 2010 and 2015, the frac sand mining industry in Wisconsin rapidly expanded. The state’s plentiful silica sand reserves were a natural draw for mining companies and processing plants. The Department of Natural Resources reports that there 128 frac sand facilities in Wisconsin, but this number may start lowering rapidly. In recent years, frac sand mines have begun popping up closer to the Texas oil fields making things easier for the local drilling costs. The oil drilling companies could get the Texas frac sand for much cheaper because they did not have to pay the shipping costs associated with bringing it in from Wisconsin. While the demand for frac sand, which is used in drilling for oil, is hitting all time highs, the demand for Wisconsin frac sand continues to dwindle. The drop in demand for Wisconsin frac sand led to plummeting prices for the commodity.

The pressure being placed on Wisconsin frac sand producers is already evident in record numbers of SEC filings. The bankruptcy filings are beginning. Recently, Emerge Energy Services LP, the owner of Superior Silica Sands, a major frac sand mining company operating in Wisconsin, is facing bankruptcy The company entered into a debt restructuring agreement with lenders this past April. Pursuant to the agreement, the company’s debt obligations will be cleared in exchange for the lenders becoming majority shareholders in the company. The alternative to this is the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Market analysts are confident that more companies will follow suit and estimate that up to 75% of Wisconsin frac sand mines might close. The opening of more Texas mines has led to an oversupply in Wisconsin while the demand for Wisconsin frac sand decreases. There has also been an emergence of frac sand mines in Oklahoma. In the past 18 months alone, more than a dozen mines have appeared in west Texas and Oklahoma. These mines are located near some of the busiest oilfields in the U.S. The Texas mines produce greater than 100 million tons of sand a year. This means that just the Texas mines are producing enough sand to satisfy the estimated annual industry need.  

Experienced Wisconsin Bankruptcy Attorneys

Industry shifts are often the root cause of companies filing for bankruptcy. If your company is in the midst of bankruptcy, Hanson & Payne, LLC is available to answer any of your questions and advise you of your options. What you decide to do now can have a major impact on your future. Contact us today.