A California Appeals Court has dismissed as moot Connor Cochran’s last-ditch attempt to overturn a lower court award of damages to Peter S. Beagle because there is no longer any obligation for Cochran to pay it – his debts were discharged in his personal bankruptcy proceeding.
Cochran had been trying to appeal the 2019 judgment by arguing that although the monetary award cannot be enforced, the judgment can still be used to besmirch his name by “appearing to find [him] liable for misconduct parallel to criminal fraud.”
In 2019 a California court awarded Peter S. Beagle $332,000 in damages for his claims against Cochran involving financial elder abuse, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and defamation. Beagle originally sued Cochran in 2015 for $52 million in damages, disgorgement of illegal gains and restitution, and dissolution of two corporations he co-owned with Cochran, Avicenna Development Corporation, and Conlan Press, Inc. The claims against the corporate entities were not part of the state trial, being subject to the automatic stay of litigation that went into effect when Cochran and his companies filed federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 4, 2018 (the day before the state trial was originally scheduled to begin.) Only after the U.S. Bankruptcy Court partially lifted the automatic stay could Beagle’s suit against Cochran as an individual be tried.
Since then, Cochran, Avicenna, and Conlan Press have all gone through Chapter 7 liquidating bankruptcy proceedings, and in February 2021 Beagle and a new ownership group regained control of his work following a court-approved sale.
Even though the judgment against Cochran could no longer be collected, he pursued his appeal of the award as a means of disputing Beagle’s claims of financial elder abuse, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and defamation. The panel of judges reviewed a lot of testimony about those issues, which they recapped in their opinion. However, they didn’t rule on any of those issues, ultimately deciding the action was moot “because Cochran obtained an order of discharge from the bankruptcy court that rendered the judgment void and unenforceable.”
(A downloadable copy of the decision is below.)