Thurston County bankruptcies rise 4 percent in 2011

Thurston: Pace slows as number increases to 1,324

ROLF BOONE; Staff writerJanuary 12, 2012 

Thurston County personal and business bankruptcy filings remained on an upward trend in 2011, rising 4.25 percent from 2010, according to year-end data compiled by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington.

The total number of filings was 1,324 in 2011, compared with 1,270 in 2010, the data show. Although the total number of filings is higher, the percentage change was not nearly as extreme as from 2008 to 2009, when filings rose 37.6 percent to 1,152 from 837. That increase likely can be tied to the recession after the economy tanked in the fall of 2008.

Of the total filings in 2011, 1,021 were Chapter 7 filings, followed by 298 Chapter 13 and five Chapter 11 flings, the data show. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is considered a straight liquidation, while Chapter 11 typically is filed by a corporation looking to restructure its debt. Chapter 13 usually involves some sort of repayment plan.

Olympia bankruptcy attorney Jennie Patton was surprised that filings had increased in Thurston County because activity at her office has slowed and has slowed for her colleagues as well, she said. That doesn’t mean that good times are back.

“I’m not ready to say the economy is improving,” she said, adding that people still are dealing with unemployment, falling home values and unsecured debt, such as credit card debt.

And once the new year begins, she begins receiving phone calls from people inquiring about the bankruptcy process. Some incur too much debt over the holidays and some realize their IRS tax return isn’t going to tide them over like they thought it would.

“They realize the seriousness of the situation,” she said.

Total bankruptcy filings in the Western District also fell in the year-over-year period, down 4.4 percent to 25,690 from 26,887, the data show. The Western District covers all of Western Washington.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/bizblog

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