A jury awarded Fox Sports broadcaster Erin Andrews $55 million in damages from stalker/voyeur/pornographer Michael Barrett for removing the peephole from the door to her hotel room, recording videos of her undressed, and posting them on the Internet. Barrett pleaded guilty to a criminal offense of videotaping her naked and publishing the clip, served a sentence of jail time, and filed for bankruptcy after his release.
Bankruptcy filers seek financial relief from their debts so they can start anew fnancially. Bankruptcy can eliminate or discharge most debtor obligations, but some are not dis-chargeable, and Barrett’s bankruptcy court has ruled that the $55 million Andrews claim is one such item.
Bankruptcy cases for adjustment of debts proceed under Title 11 of the United States Code. Under Title 11, Chapter 7 liquidates debtor assets, Chapter 9 bails out municipalities as debtors, Chapter 11 reorganizes debtors, and Chapter 13 is for individual debtors with regular incomes.
The bankruptcy law enables financially overwhelmed debtors to present plans to repay creditors to the extent of their ability. If the creditors accept a plan or, if the court finds it meets all requirements for confirmation, the court “shall grant the debtor a discharge.” 
In most Chapter 7 bankruptcies, assets are limited, and there is typically little or nothing with which to pay unsecured creditors following liquidation. What proceeds remain for distribution after payments on priority claims of taxes, child support, student loans, and the like generally receive only a pro-rata share of any left-over surplus.
The discharge eliminates only the debtor’s personal liability for unpaid obligations. It has no effect on liens against the debtor’s real or personal property.
Most Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases treat dis-chargeable debts as non-priority general unsecured claims worth little to creditors from Chapter 13 repayment plans; nevertheless, completion of plan payments discharges them.
Bankruptcy lawyers talk about non dis-chargeable debts that “follow you to the grave.” Most non dis-chargeable exceptions from discharge are automatic with no action by creditors necessary. Some exceptions, however, require creditor objections to their discharge and proof of exceptional debtor misconduct before the court deems them non dis-chargeable. One such exception is any debt for a “willful and malicious injury.” 
“Willful” means the debtor acted intentionally, “malicious” with knowledge that the act could cause injury or harm, which need not be grave or severe to satisfy the element of malice; the mere knowledge of likely injury is enough under case law. If the debtor did it on purpose and knew it probably would cause some injury, the consequential debt is non dis-chargeable.
Because the bankruptcy court expressly found debtor Barrett’s misconduct toward claimant Andrews to be a willful and malicious injury, his resort to personal bankruptcy to discharge her claim was denied.
 United States Code Title 11 Section 727(a) (11 US code 727(a)). A discharge “voids any judgment at any time obtained, to the extent that such judgment is a determination of the personal liability of the debtor with respect to any debt discharged under section 727, . . . operates as an injunction against the commencement or continuation of an action, the employment of process, or an act, to collect, recover or offset any such debt as a personal liability of the debtor, whether or not discharge of such debt is waived; and . . . operates as an injunction against the commencement or continuation of an action, the employment of process, or an act, to collect or recover from, or offset against, property of the debtor,” 11 US Code 524(a).