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Stavrum v. Tudor

Court of Appeals of Oregon

March 20, 2019

Kiim STAVRUM, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Amber TUDOR and Patricia Kowalski, Defendants-Respondents.

          Submitted November 3, 2017.

          Clackamas County Circuit Court CV14100850; Katherine E. Weber, Judge.

          Kiim Stavrum fled the brief for appellant pro se.

          Kit Donnelly fled the brief for respondents.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Tookey, Judge, and Shorr, Judge.

         Case Summary: Plaintiff appeals a judgment entered in favor of defendants that dismissed plaintiff's claims and awarded damages to one of the defendants on her breach-of-contract counterclaims. Plaintiff asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict because the contract debt that formed the basis of defendant's counterclaims had been discharged in plaintiff's bankruptcy proceeding. Held: The trial court erred, in part, because the debts that arose before plaintiff fled his bankruptcy petition were discharged in his no-asset Chapter 7 bankruptcy, even if defendant did not have notice of the bankruptcy proceeding.

         [296 Or.App. 535] ARMSTRONG, P. J.

         Plaintiff appeals a judgment entered in favor of defendants that dismissed plaintiff's claims and awarded damages to defendant Kowalski on her breach-of-contract counterclaims. We write to address only plaintiff's first assignment of error; we reject his second assignment of error without discussion. In his first assignment of error, plaintiff asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict because he had proven that the contract debt that formed the basis of defendant's counterclaims had been discharged in plaintiff's bankruptcy proceeding. Defendant's sole response on appeal is that plaintiff failed to preserve his first assignment of error. We conclude that plaintiff preserved his assignment of error and that the trial court erred in denying plaintiffs motion for directed verdict, in part. Accordingly, we reverse and remand the judgment on defendant's counterclaims in part and otherwise affirm.

         The relevant facts are few and undisputed. Plaintiff was a building contractor who agreed with defendants to build a barn on defendants' property to serve as a horse-boarding facility and then to work at their horse-boarding facility in exchange for, among other things, free rent. From June 2009 to December 2010, defendant Kowalski made personal loans to plaintiff in the form of five separate checks.[1] On April 4, 2013, plaintiff filed a bankruptcy petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. See 11 USC §§ 701-784. By a check dated June 6, 2013, defendant Kowalski made an additional loan to plaintiff. And, on July 15, 2013, plaintiff obtained a discharge order in his Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding that discharged his debts and determined that he had no assets to distribute to his creditors.

         In October 2014, plaintiff filed this action against defendants on various claims stemming from his work at their property, including building the barn. Defendant [296 Or.App. 536] Kowalski filed breach-of-contract counterclaims, seeking repayment of the money that she had lent to plaintiff. Plaintiff asserted affirmative defenses, including that "[a]ny debt owed to the defendant was discharged when the plaintiff filed for relief pursuant to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy."

         The case was tried to the court. At the close of defendant's case on her counterclaims, plaintiff moved for a directed verdict, arguing that the bankruptcy discharge order, which was admitted into evidence, discharged all of the claimed debt. Plaintiff specifically argued as follows:

"[PLAINTIFF]: *** [O]n bankruptcy, I don't think-even if somebody is not notified [of the bankruptcy proceeding], I think that-and even though I gave everybody notification, if I missed somebody, it is still covered underneath the bankruptcy.
"THE COURT: So your argument is that bankruptcy law applies to debts that are not listed on the ...

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