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Published: Saturday, 10/2/2004

Area bankruptcy filings are 3rd highest in history

People and businesses in northwest Ohio seeking relief from their debts kept a sizzling pace last month, submitting enough bankruptcy cases to rocket 2004 to the third-highest filing year ever, with three months to go.

There were 901 filings last month, down 3 percent from the same month a year ago but up from 887 in August, according to figures released yesterday by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Toledo. The court covers 21 counties.

Excessive credit card and health care debts are among the prime reasons behind the filings, bills the debtor is unable to pay often after losing his or her job or overtime, experts have said.

It marked the sixth time this year filings exceeded 900, and brought the year-to-date total to 8,218, leaping ahead of the 7,989 filings for all of 2001 as the third highest.

The record year was 10,381 last year, and there were 8,853 cases in 2002.

If the volume trend continues, nearly 11,000 cases will be filed this year, estimated David Fickel, clerk in charge of the local bankruptcy court.

To surpass the record would mean an average about 720 cases a month for the rest of the year. Only one month this year - January - and only three months in the last two years had fewer cases than that. Two months this year had more than 1,000 cases. Until four years ago, the court had never had more than 600 cases in a month.

Nearly all of the local cases are filed by individuals, although the court does not provide figures for business bankruptcies. Most of the local cases are Chapter 7 liquidation cases, which at 7,399 so far this year are up 4 percent from the same period a year ago.

Chapter 13 cases, in which the wage earner seeks to have some debts erased but to establish a long-term repayment plan for the rest, have jumped 18 percent to 808, including 99 filed last month.

There also have been 11 Chapter 11 business reorganization petitions filed this year, the same as last year.



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