United States District Court, D. Colorado
IN RE: JOSEPH T. OLTMANN. C-BALL VENTURES, LLC, d/b/a Dealers Auto Auction of the Rockies, LLC; Plaintiff/Appellee,
JOSEPH T. OLTMANN, Defendant/Appellant.
OPINION AND ORDER ON APPEAL
MARCIA S. KRIEGER, Chief District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court on appeal from the February 6, 2014 Order and Judgment of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Colorado in favor of the Plaintiff/Appellee C-Ball Ventures, LLC, d/b/a Dealers Auto Auction of the Rockies, LLC ("DAAR") determining that a judgment debt owed by Joseph T. Oltmann to DAAR is excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6). In reviewing this matter, the Court has considered the designated record and written arguments of the parties, including the Mr. Oltmann's Opening Brief (#14) and DAAR's Response Brief (#16).
Exercising jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158, the Court AFFIRMS the judgment in favor of DAAR.
The debt at issue is reflected in a 2007 judgment entered by the Adams County Court in favor of DAAR and against Mr. Oltmann. In that case, the county court determined that Mr. Oltmann was liable to DAAR for civil theft and conversion and entered judgment against Mr. Oltmann in the amount of $45, 755.22. Mr. Oltmann attempted to appeal the judgment, but his appeal was ultimately dismissed.
Later, Mr. Oltmann filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7. In re Oltmann, Bankruptcy Case No. 07-19844-HRT. DAAR initiated an adversary proceeding against Mr. Oltmann, contending that the judgment debt is non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6). In the adversary proceeding, DAAR moved for summary judgment, arguing that the county court judgment had preclusive effect with regard to determination of the dischargeability under § 523(a)(6). The bankruptcy court granted DAAR's motion and entered a declaratory judgment determining the debt to be excepted from discharge.
Mr. Oltmann appeals from the bankruptcy court's judgment of non-dischargeability. Despite Mr. Oltmann's lengthy recitation of issues presented on appeal, many of which relate to the underlying county court case, there is actually only one issue to be decided - did the bankruptcy court err in granting summary judgment in favor of DAAR and against Mr. Oltmann?
II. MATERIAL FACTS
The facts material to this case are either undisputed, or were determined by the county court following a bench trial.
DAAR is in the business of selling vehicles at auction. Sometime in 2003, Mr. Oltmann, doing business through his company Auto Millennium, LLC, attended an auction at DAAR's facility and was the winning bidder for a Toyota Corolla. The bid was for $5, 275.00. Approximately two weeks later, DAAR informed Mr. Oltmann that the title to the Corolla was ready to be delivered, along with three other titles. Although Mr. Oltmann took three checks to the auction facility, he walked away with four titles. Immediately thereafter, DAAR contacted Mr. Oltmann demanding payment or return of the vehicle and title. Mr. Oltmann refused, claiming that he had paid cash for the vehicle.
DAAR brought suit against Mr. Oltmann and his business entity, Auto Millennium, LLC, asserting claims for civil theft and conversion. DAAR alleged that Mr. Oltmann unlawfully took title to and possession of the Toyota without paying for it. It further alleged that despite demands for payment, Mr. Oltmann refused to return the Toyota or produce proof of payment.
Following a bench trial, the county court found in favor of DAAR on both claims. The county court rejected Mr. Oltmann's claim that he had paid for the car with cash because he could not produce proof of payment. The court found that Mr. Oltmann obtained the title to the Corolla either by accident or surreptitiously, but in either case, did not pay for the car. The court further concluded that by retaining possession of the vehicle and title without tendering payment after demand was made by DAAR, constituted civil theft. The county court awarded treble damages and attorney fees pursuant to Colorado's civil theft statute, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-4-405. The total judgment entered was in the amount of $45, 755.22.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
In reviewing a bankruptcy court's decision, the district court functions as an appellate court and is authorized to affirm, reverse, modify, or remand the bankruptcy court's ruling. 28 U.S.C. § 158(a); Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8013. A bankruptcy court's entry of summary judgment barring claims under the doctrine of collateral estoppel is reviewed de novo, viewing the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and drawing all inference in that party's favor. Dodge v. Cotter Corp., 203 F.3d 1190, 1197 (10th Cir. 2000); In re Amdura Corp., 167 B.R. 640 (D.Colo. 1994). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is ...