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Willful and Malicious Torts

The rationale of Bankruptcy is to afford a debtor a fresh start, to allow the debtor to begin anew, without the burden of its debts.  However the Bankruptcy Code forbids discharge of some debts.  One instance of such a nondischargeable debt is willful and malicious injury exception.

Section 523(a)(6) of the Bankruptcy Code excludes from discharge any debt for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity.  Section 523(a)(6) attempts to incorporate intentional tort principles into bankruptcy law, thereby excepting from discharge any debts the petitioner incurred as a result of their intentional wrongdoings.  Section 523(a)(6) focuses on three significant points:

  • the act subject of the discharge must be willful;
  • the act must be malicious; and
  • the act must be intended to result in an injury.

The willful and malicious injury exception only applies to intentional injuries that the law calls intentional torts, not reckless or negligent torts.  To except a debt from discharge under the exception, one only needed to prove that the debtor’s act was intentional and necessarily caused injury.  The existence of malice was assumed from the fact that an intentional act caused the injury.

Inside Willful and Malicious Torts