Disbelief of the untruth

The bankruptcy debtor in McClendon v. Springfield had lost a defamation judgment for $341,000.  No. 13-41030 (Aug. 26, 2014, unpublished).  Because “the jury’s verdict could be sustained either on intentionality or recklessness,” the bankruptcy court held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the claim resulted from a “wilful and malicious” injury.  Concluding that it did, the court denied discharge of that claim.  On appeal, the debtor argued that “a trial judge may not use his disbelief of a witness as affirmative support for the proposition that the opposite of the witness’s testimony is the truth.”  (citing Seymour v. Oceanic Navigating Co., 453 F.2d 1185, 1190-91 (5th Cir. 1972)) (Texas state practitioners are familiar with similar sufficiency principles from City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802 (Tex. 2005)).  The Fifth Circuit rejected this argument, both in light of the entire record received by the bankruptcy court, and because:  “[H]here, the factual inquiry was binary, a question whether [the debtor] acted willfully and maliciously or not.  . . . [T]he bankruptcy court’s disbelief of [the debtor’s] statements that he did not know the statements were false leaves only the alternative that he did know . . . .”

Recent Related Posts