Argued Sept. 9, 2013.
Bradley J. Buchheit, Tucker Hester Baker & Krebs, Indianapolis, IN, for Debtor-Appellee.
James G. Adams, Greencastle, IN, pro se.
Daniel C. Masten, Greencastle, IN, for Creditor-Appellant.
Before POSNER, ROVNER, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
HAMILTON, Circuit Judge.
In this bankruptcy appeal, creditor Dawn Marie Adams appeals fro the bankruptcy court's denial of her claim against the estate of James Gregory
Adams, her former husband and business partner. (Since the parties have the same last name, we refer to them here as Dawn and Greg.) The state courts of Georgia decided three times in three final judgments that Greg still owed money to Dawn after they divorced and unwound their " monster truck" business. The bankruptcy court heard evidence on the merits of Dawn's claim, though, and denied it as inequitable. The district court affirmed, and Dawn appeals.
Because the decisions of the bankruptcy court and the district court were final orders as to Dawn's claim, we have jurisdiction over her appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(d). We find that the issues concerning the validity of Dawn's claim were previously adjudicated in the state courts and that the doctrine of issue preclusion prevented the bankruptcy court from rehearing those issues. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Debtor Greg Adams and creditor Dawn Adams had been married for about three years when they were divorced in 2004 by an order of the Superior Court of Jasper County, Georgia. The divorce decree and a 2006 modification required Greg to pay Dawn $61,295, secured by a note and a security agreement in certain trucks and equipment (including a " ‘ Monster Truck’ with a Summit Motor installed and currently identified as the ‘ Annihilator’ " ).
Greg failed to pay the judgment, however, and in 2007 Dawn sued him for breach of the note and security agreement in the Superior Court of Upson County, Georgia, where Greg had relocated. Greg asserted in his answer that the note had been paid in full, but he failed to appear for trial. The Upson County court entered judgment against him on June 27, 2008 and reduced all of Dawn's claims to a single judgment of $97,091. Greg did not appeal from the 2008 Upson County judgment.
While the Upson County proceeding was pending, Dawn also filed a motion for contempt against Greg in Jasper County, where the divorce had been finalized, for his failure to pay the monthly alimony payments that were due under the divorce decree and secured by the note. Greg again filed an answer asserting that Dawn had been paid in full. After a hearing, the Jasper County court found that as of February 17, 2009 (the date of the order), Greg owed $41,096.39 in alimony, as well as past-due life insurance premiums, costs, interest, and attorney fees. The court found Greg in contempt and ordered ...