Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal


Kelly Gould


To help debtors obtain a fresh start post-bankruptcy, § 362(a) of the Code provides for an automatic stay, which enjoins creditors from taking any collection action against a debtor immediately upon the debtor's filing for bankruptcy. Originally, victims of a stay violation relied solely on the bankruptcy court's contempt power to recover damages. In 1984, Congress added a new subsection to § 362, now codified as § 362(k), to specifically authorize bankruptcy courts to award damages to an "individual injured" by a violation of the stay. Most importantly, § 362(k) permits bankruptcy courts to award punitive damages, which typically are not an available remedy for civil contempt.