UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
RICHARD C. BEACH
DEBTOR CASE NO. 90-00128
LOREN E. KNEPFLE PLAINTIFF
VS. ADV. NO. 90-0122
RICHARD C. BEACH DEFENDANT
This matter is pending before the Court on the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant contends pursuant to Bankruptcy Rule 7056 that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law that the plaintiff's claim should be dismissed and that he should be awarded costs and attorney's fees expended. The issue to be resolved herein is whether a debt owed to the plaintiff by the defendant is non-dischargeable pursuant to 11 U.S.C.'523(a)(6). This Court has jurisdiction of this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. '1334; it is a core proceeding pursuant to 28 U.S.C. '157(b)(2)(I).
According to the Complaint filed by the plaintiff herein on May 18, 1990, he obtained an Agreed Judgment against the defendant on August 30, 1989, in the amount of $4,688.00 as a result of his having been involved in an accident in which plaintiff alleged that defendant had negligently caused him damage. The defendant admitted the allegations of the complaint therein and the Agreed Judgment was entered. The defendant was not carrying automobile insurance at the time of the accident. The defendant filed his bankruptcy petition in this Court on February 5, 1990.
In his Complaint in this proceeding, plaintiff argues that the defendant's failure to maintain insurance, in violation of KRS Chapter 187, was the "proximate cause" of the injury to the plaintiff, and as such constitutes a willful and malicious injury to the person of the plaintiff, thereby precluding discharge of the debt. It is the opinion of this Court that there is no support for the plaintiff's contention in either logic or law. It was not the defendant's failure to maintain insurance that caused the damage to the plaintiff's vehicle, the damage for which he obtained the Agreed Judgment, but the defendant's conduct in driving his own vehicle. That conduct resulted in the accident that caused the damage. To agree that the failure to maintain insurance was the "proximate cause" of the injury to the plaintiff requires a leap across the chasm of reason which this Court is not prepared to make.
In addition to its conceptual difficulty in applying the plaintiff's theory of the case, the Court also finds no support for it in the cases he cites. In re Smith, Bankrupt, 161 F. Supp. 896 (WDNY 1956) involved driving under the influence of alcohol. Such conduct may be, and often is, the cause of injury to parties involved in vehicular accidents. The other two cases, Carroll v. Jones, 141 N.E.2d 239 (Common Pleas Ohio, 1956) and Greene v. Lane, 87 F.2d 951 (7th Cir. 1937) deal with willful and malicious misconduct, but the plaintiff does not represent that these cases identify the "willful and malicious misconduct" as failure to maintain insurance. In addition, the Court's own research has revealed nothing in case law that would support the premise that failure to maintain insurance constitutes a "willful and malicious injury" for the purpose of applying'523(a)(6).
In conclusion, it is the opinion of this Court that the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and that his Motion for Summary Judgment as to dismissal of the plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice should therefore be SUSTAINED. That part of the defendant's Motion which seeks attorney's fees and costs should be OVERRULED.
By the Court -
David R. Steele
Richard A. Sadoff