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STEADMAN v. STEADMAN

March 15, 2004.

ANGELINA STEADMAN, Appellant,
v.
BRUCE E. STEADMAN, Debtor-in-Possession and WASHINGTON MUTUAL BANK, FA, successor in interest to Washington Home Loans, Inc., successor in interest by merger to Fleet Mortgage Corp., Appellee



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEGROME DAVIS, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Appellant Angelina Steadman ("Appellant") appeals from the bankruptcy court's October 8, 2002 order overruling Appellant's objection to the amended proof of claim filed by Washington Mutual Bank, FA, successor in interest to Washington Home Loans, Inc., successor in interest by merger to Fleet Mortgage Corp. (collectively, "Washington Mutual"). In her appeal, Appellant argues that the bankruptcy court erred in finding that she failed to rebut the prime fade effect of Washington Mutual's amended proof of claim.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

  On August 26, 1977, the Debtor-in-Possession, Bruce E. Steadman ("Debtor"), and his wife, Appellant, Angelina Steadman (collectively, the "Steadmans"), executed a mortgage note in the principal sum of $28,000 for the property located at 120-122 West Washington Lane, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19144 (the "Property"). On June 8, 1990, Washington Mutual instituted an action in mortgage foreclosure against the Steadmans for their failure to make the required monthly payments of principal, interest and other collectible charges and, on May 10, 1991, a default judgment was entered against the Steadmans in the amount of $32,090.72.

  On December 28, 2001, Debtor filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. This was the first time Debtor had filed for bankruptcy. Appellant, on the other hand, had filed six Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions, all of which were dismissed. On January 30, 2002, Washington Mutual filed a proof of claim in the amount of $42,449.22. On February 11, 2002, Debtor filed an objection to that claim. In the interim, Washington Mutual filed a Motion to Dismiss Debtor's bankruptcy case on the basis of Appellant's serial filings.

  Debtor and Washington Mutual subsequently settled their differences and entered into a stipulation — approved by the bankruptcy court on April 2, 2002 — whereby Washington Mutual agreed to reduce its proof of claim from $42.449.22 to $39,310.73 and Debtor agreed that should his bankruptcy case be dismissed for any reason, he and his wife would be barred from filling another bankruptcy petition for a period of 180 days. Pursuant to the stipulation, Debtor filed an amended Chapter 13 plan in which he agreed to pay Washington Mutual its claim of $39,310.73 in full. The bankruptcy court confirmed the amended plan on May 17, 2002.

  On April 15, 2002, Appellant proceeding pro se filed her own objection to Washington Mutual's amended proof of claim. According to the bankruptcy court, attached to the objection was "an uncatalogued jumble of documentation . . . which [Appellant] proffered for the ostensible purpose of demonstrating that the amended claim of Washington Mutual was still too high[] because it failed to reflect proper credit for various monies tendered over the years to Washington Mutual by [Appellant] and/or [Debtor]." Order at 2. Through his counsel, Debtor wrote a letter to the bankruptcy court, stating that he did not want Appellant's objection to affect his bankruptcy case, as he was satisfied with the stipulation he entered into with Washington Mutual.

  The bankruptcy court scheduled a hearing with respect to Appellant's objection for May 15, 2002. During the hearing, it was learned that Washington Mutual failed to serve its Motion to Dismiss on Appellant. On this basis, Appellant objected to the entry of an order barring her from filing another bankruptcy petition for a period of 180 days. Ultimately, the hearing was adjourned because the parties expressed a desire to attempt to negotiate a settlement.

  Settlement efforts proved fruitless, however, and the hearing was rescheduled for August 15, 2002. At the hearing, Appellant testified as to her belief that Washington Mutual's amended proof of claim was too high, in that it failed to reflect payments made to Washington Mutual. She also proffered documents purporting to support her testimony. According to the bankruptcy court, these documents were "impossible to analyze . . . in any meaningful way" because they did not correlate to Washington Mutual's amended proof of claim. Order at 3.

  After concluding that Appellant had standing to object to Washington Mutual's amended proof of claim, the bankruptcy court held that she failed to overcome the prima facie validity of Washington Mutual's claim and, as a result, overruled Appellant's objection.*fn1 The court also vacated that portion of the stipulation Debtor entered into with Washington Mutual, barring Appellant from filing another bankruptcy petition for a period of 180 days.

  On July 17, 2003, Appellant filed an appeal from the October 8, 2002 order of the bankruptcy court, arguing that the bankruptcy court erred in finding that Appellant only contributed $1,700 towards mortgage payments in the years 1993, 1994 and 1995, in failing to consider the "uncontroverted evidence that Washington Mutual . . . failed to account for in excess of $8,700.00 in Bankruptcy Trustee payments," and in "concluding that certain money order payments were recently made to Washington Mutual [], when they were actually made between 1997 and 2001." Brief of Appellant Angelina Steadman ("Appellant's Br.") at 1-2. In support of her argument, Appellant attaches to her brief a disbursement report, which Washington Mutual contends is not part of the record on appeal. Id., Ex. C.

  II. Jurisdiction

  This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 ...


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