Honey Do Men wins legal fees in battle over bankruptcy papers
For nearly six years, Honey Do Men Gutters Inc. has been trying to collect payment of $61,814 for work on Teba Gumbs’ home in Peekskill, and for six years Gumbs has evaded collection of that debt.
Now, a federal bankruptcy judge has granted Honey Do a preliminary victory, awarding the Carmel repair and renovation company $19,520 in attorneys’ fees and offering the possibility of compensation on the original debt.
Honey Do “paints a disturbing picture of Mr. Gumbs’ extensive and protracted breach of discovery obligations,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean H. Lane said Feb. 15, “despite numerous hearings…and repeated reprimands from the court “.
Gumbs hired Honey Do in the spring of 2016 to extensively renovate her home, according to court records. The contract was set at $51,000 but jumped to $72,514 for additional modifications.
Gumbs paid $9,500, leaving a balance of $61,814.
In 2017, Gumbs filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, declaring $303,194 in assets, consisting mostly of the house, and $462,034 in liabilities, mostly to numerous banks and credit card companies.
Gumbs worked as a cook at White Plains Hospital. He and his wife, a dietitian who worked at another hospital and had not gone bankrupt, earned about $110,000 a year in salaries and rental income.
In 2018, Honey Do accused Gumbs of fraud in adversarial proceedings filed in bankruptcy court.
Company president Darrell Babbani claimed that Gumbs falsely stated that he had secured financing for the project, then a home improvement loan, then a refinance for the house, but he did not have the intention to pay for materials and work.
Honey Do asked the court to quash Gumbs’ response to the opponent’s complaint, enter default judgment against him, and make him pay the legal costs the company incurred trying to obtain statements of bank account, credit card statements and other discovery documents.
The court repeatedly gave Gumbs the opportunity to produce documents. Judge Lane ordered him in July to produce the records in two weeks, for example. A month later, the court explained that the requested documents were necessary and warned Gumbs that he could be sanctioned if he did not comply.
In October, the court warned Gumbs that Honey Do could file for default and noted that its actions could be considered a “lack of good faith.”
Gumbs still hasn’t produced the recordings.
In December, Honey Do filed for default judgment and penalties. On January 13, Gumbs’ attorney, his third in four years, confirmed that Gumbs had failed to meet his discovery obligations.
Lane asked the lawyers to try to negotiate a settlement. The negotiation failed.
Gumbs provided information on three bank accounts, Lane noted, but that was far short of the 11 accounts he claimed to have. He also answered some of Honey Do’s questions, but his answers were not sworn.
Lane found Gumbs’ noncompliance to be deliberate. He had been given ample time, numerous warnings and lengthy due process. His failures were no one else’s fault and they “reflect his bad faith”.
The judge awarded $19,520 in attorney fees to Honey Do. He took under advisement the motions to strike Gumbs’ response and to grant default judgment.
Yonkers attorney Carlos J. Cuevas is representing Honey Do. Poughkeepsie’s attorney, Ronald R. Tomlins, is representing Gumbs.