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In re Tirrell

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 6, 2017

In re: Martin J. Tirrell Debtor
v.
Martin J. Tirrell Defendant-Appellant Charles Gabus Motors, Inc., d/b/a Toyota of Des Moines Plaintiff- Appellee

          Submitted: July 28, 2017

         Appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines

          Before SALADINO, Chief Judge, SCHERMER and NAIL, Bankruptcy Judges.

          NAIL, Bankruptcy Judge.

         Martin J. Tirrell ("Debtor") appeals the January 31, 2017 judgment of the bankruptcy court[1] denying Debtor a discharge of his debts. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         Charles Gabus Motors, Inc. ("Gabus Motors") filed an adversary complaint asking the bankruptcy court to determine the dischargeability of its claim against Debtor and to deny Debtor a discharge in his chapter 7 case. Shortly before the scheduled trial, Debtor and Gabus Motors entered into a settlement agreement, pursuant to which Debtor was to pay Gabus Motors $45, 000.00 in five installments, the first of which was due by January 3, 2017. The parties agreed if Debtor made these payments, Gabus Motors would dismiss the adversary proceeding. The parties further agreed if Debtor failed to make these payments, Gabus Motors could file an affidavit of default and ask the bankruptcy court to enter an order denying Debtor a discharge. The bankruptcy court approved the parties' settlement agreement.

         Debtor failed to make the first payment, and Gabus Motors filed the requisite affidavit of default. Debtor objected, claiming he was prevented from making the payment by circumstances beyond his control, and asked the bankruptcy court to order Gabus Motors to accept late payment.

         The matter came before the bankruptcy court. At the hearing, Debtor claimed enforcing the default provision of the parties' settlement agreement would also violate Iowa Code § 554.2718.[2] The bankruptcy court overruled Debtor's objection and directed the entry of a judgment denying Debtor a discharge. Judgment was entered, and Debtor timely appealed.[3]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review for clear error the bankruptcy court's findings of fact. Islamov v. Ungar (In re Ungar), 633 F.3d 675, 679 (8th Cir. 2011). We review de novo the bankruptcy court's conclusions of law. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         Debtor's principal argument is the bankruptcy court erred in not temporarily excusing him from making the January 3, 2017 payment under the parties' settlement agreement. In support of this argument, Debtor points us to Iowa common law that recognizes both the doctrine of impracticability and the ...


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