Suing a bankruptcy trustee is a very difficult legal issue, with a great deal of conflicting legal opinion. The following explanation is taken from In re Hussain, No. 10-2103 (GEB). (D.N.J. Dec 07, 2010).
Although some courts have held that a bankruptcy trustee is only personally liable for "willful" violations of his fiduciary duties, see Hutchinson v. McGee, 5 F.3d 750, 752-53 (4th Cir. 1993), the majority of courts have held that a trustee may be held personally liable for a breach of his fiduciary duties via surcharge by the bankruptcy court if his or her conduct is no more than negligent. See Red Carpet Corp. of Panama City Beach v. Miller, 708 F.2d 1576, 1578 (11th Cir. 1983); In re Cochise College Park, Inc., 703 F.2d 1339, 1357 (9th Cir. 1983); Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Weaver, 680 F.2d 451, 461 (6th Cir. 1982); Sherr v. Winkler, 552 F.2d 1367, 1374 (10th Cir. 1977); In re Sturm, 121 B.R. 443, 448 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. 1990). Case law in the Third Circuit alludes to the fact that a trustee would be held personally liable for negligence in his fiduciary duties. See In re Prindible, 115 F.2d 21 (3d Cir. 1940); Lambertville Rubber Co. v. Crowley, 111 F.2d 45 (3d Cir. 1940). See also Tennsco Corp. v. Estey Metal Prods., 200 B.R. 542, 544-545 (D.N.J. 1996) (holding that while a bankruptcy trustee may be held personally liable for a breach of fiduciary duty to the estate, when dealing with trustee liability to non-parties, there is a strong public policy in protecting bankruptcy trustees for unintentional tortious acts).
One point is established beyond dispute: Absolute judicial immunity extends to bankruptcy trustees because "their duties and functions are `an integral part of the judicial process.'" Id. at 423 (quoting Lonneker Farms, Inc. v. Klobucher, 804 F.2d 1096, 1097 (9th Cir. 1986)). Because of this rule, a person who tries to sue a bankruptcy trustee must obtain permission of the court, before the lawsuit can go forward.
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