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Three opinions from the Supreme Court


WORLD Radio - Three opinions from the Supreme Court

The justices hand down decisions on bankruptcy, inheritance taxes, and Native Americans’ healthcare

U.S. Supreme Court building Douglas Rissing/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: three opinions handed down last week by the US Supreme Court.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: First, a unanimous opinion in Truck Insurance Exchange versus Kaiser Gypsum Company. It’s a big change in bankruptcy law: now, insurers with financial responsibility to pay for bankruptcy claims may object to a Chapter 11 plan.

REICHARD: Here, thousands of people sued two manufacturers of asbestos products, claiming they caused cancer. The companies filed for bankruptcy and a judge approved the plan, but the insurer thought the plan didn’t sufficiently flag fraudulent claims. So it sought to intervene.

MAST: But the lower courts stuck by established practice and found the insurer had no legal standing here.

Established practice no longer! You could hear the eventual ruling from Justice Amy Coney Barrett during oral argument in March in this comment to the companies:

JUSTICE BARRETT: Why do you want Truck to not even be heard? What is your motivation to be fighting this so hard?

REICHARD: This means bankruptcy proceedings may take longer, but more parties with a stake in the proceedings will have a say.

Next, a win for the IRS.

Two brothers were sole shareholders of a building supply company. They agreed that if one of them died, the company could redeem the shares using life insurance proceeds.

MAST: One brother did die, and his estate reported the value of his shares at $3 million. But the IRS valued the shares at more than $5 million… the value of the company, plus the $3 million in life insurance proceeds.

That added nearly $900,000 in taxes, which the surviving brother disputed.

REICHARD: But the Supreme Court agrees with the IRS here.

Bottom line: this decision impacts business owners, requiring careful analysis of estate planning for tax purposes.

MAST: Final opinion comes in Becerra versus San Carlos Apache Tribe. It’s a 5 to 4 victory for Native Americans. This says that the federal Indian Health Service must reimburse tribes for overhead costs related to running their own health care programs.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion. He showed his hand in this comment to the government’s lawyer during oral argument in March:

JUSTICE ROBERTS: Under your approach, a tribe is worse off the more they undertake in the direction of self determination. They are undertaking more healthcare responsibilities and getting a smaller percentage of the money back from the government.

REICHARD: The ruling means federal support for tribal healthcare programs must be on equal footing with other Indian Health Service programs.

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