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Heather Marie Brennan v. Travis Scott Nickel

November 23, 2011

HEATHER MARIE BRENNAN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRAVIS SCOTT NICKEL,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

This matter is before the Court upon the parties' responses to our January 14, 2009 order which requested briefs detailing the effect of the defendant Travis Nickel's ("Defendant") bankruptcy discharge on the pending civil action. Having reviewed the parties' submissions and the filings in the bankruptcy proceedings, we shall dismiss the complaint.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Heather Marie Brennan ("Plaintiff") commenced this action with the filing of a complaint on December 12, 2005 ("Civil Action"). (Doc. 1). On June 12, 2006, Defendant submitted notice that he had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio at case number 1:06-BK-11646 ("Bankruptcy Action"). (Doc. 10). On June 12, 2006, the Court stayed this civil action pending resolution of the bankruptcy proceeding. (Doc. 11).

Defendant's May 31, 2006 bankruptcy petition listed Plaintiff as a non-priority unsecured creditor with a total disputed claim of $130,000. (Bankruptcy Action, Doc. 1 at 19). Specifically, on the "Statement of Financial Affairs," Defendant listed two disputes involving the Plaintiff: (1) the present civil action listed as a "pending civil lawsuit for money damages," and (2) a judgment obtained by the Plaintiff in Scioto County, Ohio listed as an "execution filed to obtain personal property in judgment for money action" ("Ohio Judgment"). (Id. at 27).

On September 8, 2006, Plaintiff filed an adversary action in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio at case number 1:06-AP-01254 ("Adversary Action"). Plaintiff's adversary action sought, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523(c), to determine the dischargeability of Defendant's debts from the Ohio judgment and the present civil action, and, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 727(a), to object to the discharge of Defendant's bankruptcy. On March 19, 2008, Plaintiff filed an unopposed motion for summary judgment in the adversary action. (Adversary Action, Doc. 60). Plaintiff's motion stated that she and the Defendant had reached a settlement agreement in the amount of $4844, but the parties had yet to agree to an award of post-judgment interest. (Id.). Notably, the agreement required the Plaintiff to "file a notice of dismissal in the Pennsylvania Middle District Court" and to refrain from filing "any other lawsuits against Defendant pertaining to fraud, identity theft, and personal injury or lawsuits pertaining to the past relationship between Plaintiff and Defendant."*fn1 (Id. at ex. 1). The motion requested that the Bankruptcy Court "grant this motion for summary judgment in the amount of $4844.00 plus interest at a rate determined by [the Bankruptcy Court] and lift the stay on matters pending in Pennsylvania." (Id.) (emphasis added).

Defendant did not file a response or opposition to Plaintiff's summary judgment motion. On April 15, 2008, the Bankruptcy Court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in the adversary action. The court's order states in its entirety:

This adversary proceeding arises in Chapter 7 bankruptcy Case No. 06-11646, in which the debtor is Travis S. Nickel. Debtor is the defendant in this adversary proceeding. The plaintiff in this adversary proceeding is a creditor who claims that her debt is non-dischargeable. She has a judgment against the defendant in the amount of $4,844.00. Now before the Court is plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant has not opposed the motion.

Judgment in that amount is granted to plaintiff. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1961, plaintiff is entitled to post judgment interest at the federal funds rate which is 1.63%.

(Adversary Action, Doc. 62). On September 17, 2008, the Bankruptcy Court granted Defendant a discharge pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 727. The court's order states in its entirety:

It appearing that the debtor is entitled to a discharge, IT IS ORDERED: The debtor is granted a discharge under section 727 of title 11, United States Code, (the Bankruptcy Code). (Bankruptcy Action, Doc. 24). On that same date, the Bankruptcy Court closed the adversary action. (Adversary Action, Sept. 17, 2008 docket annotation). On December 3, 2008, the Bankruptcy Court discharged the trustee and closed the bankruptcy case. (Bankruptcy Action, Dec. 3, 2008 docket annotation).

II. DISCUSSION

By order of January 14, 2009, the Court requested Plaintiff and Defendant to submit briefs addressing the effect of the disposition of the bankruptcy proceedings on this action. (Doc. 15). Defendant argues that the judgment granted to the Plaintiff in the adversary action did not include Plaintiff's requests with respect to this civil action, and that his debt was discharged in the bankruptcy action because none of the exceptions to discharge in 11 U.S.C. § 523 applies. (Doc. 16). Plaintiff notes that her adversary action included a challenge to the dischargeability of the debt from this action and that her summary judgment motion specifically requested an order allowing this action to proceed. She argues that summary judgment was issued on the whole action, and, therefore, the present civil action was not discharged in the bankruptcy proceeding. (Doc. 17).

The present matter requires us to interpret the meaning of the Bankruptcy Court in its order granting summary judgment and its order granting discharge to the Defendant. Although the matter is not free from doubt, we find that the order granting summary judgment enforces the settlement agreement reached by the parties, and the order granting discharge ...


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