James Perry v. Stephen Judge

Case Type:
Case Status:
Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Tenth Circuit No. CO-20-050 (10th Circuit, Jul 20,2021) Published
The BAP held the bankruptcy court did not err in finding all of the Plaintiff's injuries resulted from the Debtor's willful and malicious acts, because the record showed the Debtor, the aggressor, intended to cause some harm to the Plaintiff and derivative injuries may be excepted from discharge. The BAP also held the bankruptcy court did not err in finding the total State Court Judgment excepted from discharge. The Debtor did not include the state court complaint in the record on appeal, so there was no evidence before the BAP that there was an abuse of discretion.
Procedural context:
The Debtor filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. The Plaintiff commenced an adversary proceeding seeking to have the State Court Judgment declared nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6). The bankruptcy court held a trial, received the State Court Judgment, testimony of the Plaintiff and the Debtor, and a video recording of the bar fight into evidence. The bankruptcy court ruled in favor of the Plaintiff and excepted the State Court Judgment from discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6). The bankruptcy court found the Debtor's testimony uncorroborated and self-serving leading to a determination that the statements lacked credibility. The bankruptcy court also found that the Plaintiff's injuries were the proximate result of the Debtor's intended acts to cause the Plaintiff harm. The Debtor timely appealed arguing that the bankruptcy court erred, because the Debtor did not intend to harm the Plaintiff's hand specifically. The Debtor also argued that the bankruptcy court erred, because the State Court Judgment award comprised amounts for both negligence and assault and battery, so it was inappropriate to except the entire amount from discharge.
The Debtor and Plaintiff both went to a full bar in Colorado back in 2015. Sitting back-to-back on bar stools, the Debtor elbowed the Plaintiff in the back. The Plaintiff spoke to the Debtor, turned back around, and then the Debtor hit the Plaintiff on the head with a glass coffee mug. The Plaintiff responded by hitting the Debtor in the face with a drink and breaking the glass on the Debtor's face. The Plaintiff's hand was injured by the broken glass. Others stopped the Plaintiff and the Debtor from fighting and injuring themselves further. The Plaintiff sought treatment for facial, neck, and hand injuries. The Debtor also sought treatment and later pled guilty to criminal charges. The Plaintiff was not charged. The Plaintiff sued the Debtor in state court and received a default judgment after a hearing on damages. The Debtor then filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The Hons. Cornish, Michael, and Hall

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