RUSSELL H. HIPPE, Jr., Bankruptcy Judge.
This matter is before the court upon a complaint filed by the debtors seeking to avoid liens upon certain property pursuant to § 522(f) of the Bankruptcy Reform Act
A. Lien Avoidance under § 522(f)
The furniture and household goods that are the subject of the debtors' complaint were purchased from the defendant Dan's Furniture in several transactions between 1975 and 1977. Retail installment contracts, under the terms of which the seller retained a security interest in the items purchased, were executed in connection with each purchase. There were outstanding balances on each of these contracts on October 28, 1978, when the debtors and Dan's Furniture executed a new security agreement which consolidated all of the debtors' existing obligations. The new agreement granted Dan's Furniture a security interest in all of the furniture and household goods to secure payment of the consolidated indebtedness and "any and all other indebtedness Buyer may now or hereafter owe Seller or its assignee." The agreement specifically provided that "[u]ntil all installments and all other amounts due hereunder have been paid, and all of Buyer's obligations are fulfilled, Seller shall retain title to and a security interest in said goods."
Section 522(f) enables debtors to avoid contractual liens on household furnishings and household goods claimed as exempt if the liens are nonpossessory and nonpurchase-money
The Bankruptcy Reform Act does not contain a definition of either a purchase-money or a nonpurchase-money security interest. The Uniform Commercial Code (hereinafter the Code) defines a purchase-money security interest as one
Tenn.Code Ann. § 47-9-107 (1979). Official Comment 1 to this Code section provides in pertinent part:
Official Comment 2 provides in pertinent part:
This court has previously held that the consolidation of several existing obligations secured by purchase-money security interests into a single obligation secured by all of the collateral transforms the purchase-money security interests into nonpurchase-money security interests under the Code. McLemore v. Leader Furniture Co. (In re Cranfield), BK No. 78-31580 (M.D. Tenn., May 14, 1979) (B.J.).
Other courts agree that when collateral secures any debt other than its own purchase price, it is not a purchase-money security interest under the Code.
Under the terms of the October 28 agreement, Dan's Furniture was granted a security interest in all of the furniture and household goods to secure both the consolidated indebtedness and any other of the debtors' indebtedness. Thus each item secured payment not only of its own purchase price, but the purchase price of the other items and any future indebtedness. The effect of this consolidation was to transform security interests which may have been purchase-money into nonpurchase-money security interests under the Code.
There is nothing in the plain language or in the legislative history of § 522(f)(2) to indicate that the Congress contemplated that "nonpurchase-money security interest" have a meaning different from that under the Uniform Commercial Code. When the Congress intended a term to have a different meaning in the Reform Act than it had under the Code, as in the case of "security interest," which is broadened in § 101(37) of the Act to include real property, it so indicated in the legislative history. See, e.g., S.Rep.No.95-989, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 26 (1978), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin. News 1978, p. 5787; H.R.Rep.No.95-595, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 314 (1977), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1978, p. 5787.
This court concludes that the security interest of Dan's Furniture in the remaining items is a nonpurchase-money security interest and, accordingly, that the debtors are entitled to avoid its lien pursuant to § 522(f).
B. Sale of Property of the Estate under § 363(b), (f)
In his complaint the trustee attacks the security interest of the defendant Simpson County Bank in a 1979 Ford Mustang automobile.
Under § 544(a) of the Reform Act, the trustee has the status of a judgment lien creditor. Under the Uniform Commercial Code, an unperfected security interest is subordinate to the rights of a judgment lien creditor and a trustee in bankruptcy. Tenn.Code Ann. § 47-9-301(1)(b), (3) (1979). Perfection of a security interest in a motor vehicle may be accomplished under Tennessee law only by notation of the lien upon the vehicle's certificate of title. Tenn.Code Ann. § 55-3-126(b) (1980); In re Wallace, 251 F.Supp. 581 (E.D.Tenn.1966); In re Crosson, 226 F.Supp. 944 (E.D.Tenn.1963); Edmondson v. Farmers & Merchants Bank (In re Phippen), BK No. 79-30899 (Bankr. Ct.M.D.Tenn., Jan. 18, 1980); In re DEB Cabinet Co., 16 U.C.C. Rep.Serv. 236 (E.D. Tenn.1974) (B.J.); see Tenn.Code Ann. § 47-9-302(4) (1979); In re Russell, 300 F.Supp. 6 (E.D.Tenn.1969).
In its answer, Simpson County Bank [hereinafter, the Bank] acknowledges that its security interest in the automobile was not perfected in accordance with the applicable Tennessee statute. The bank argues, however, that its security interest was not perfected because it relied upon the debtor, George Krulik, to apply for the title and he failed to do so. Reliance upon the purchaser of a motor vehicle, however, does not override the Tennessee statute's strict mandate with respect to the perfection of security interests in such vehicles. See In re Crosson, 226 F.Supp. 944 (E.D.Tenn.1963). The Tennessee approach is consistent with that in other jurisdictions. In DeWoskin v. White (In re Keith), 3 B.R. 382 (D.C.E.D. Mo.1980), the district court reached the same conclusion in resolving a case whose facts are very similar to those before this court:
3 B.R. at 383.
It is the court's opinion, therefore, that the Bank's security interest was unperfected and that, as a result, the trustee must prevail.
C. Dischargeability under § 523(a)(2), (6)
Having lost the automobile to the trustee, the Bank seeks to except from the discharge of the debtor, George Krulik, the balance of the purchase price by asserting that the debtor obtained possession of the vehicle by false representations and, in the alternative, that the debtor willfully and maliciously converted its security interest.
The debtor, George Krulik, purchased the automobile on April 10, 1979, from Hunt Ford, Inc., a Kentucky automobile dealer,
The Bank never communicated directly with the debtors either before or after the transaction, never ran a credit check upon them, and had made no attempt to repossess the automobile prior to the filing of the petition for relief in this court. Just after he purchased the automobile, George Krulik was laid off by his employer, the Tennessee Valley Authority. He never applied for a certificate of title to the vehicle. He never registered the automobile but instead placed upon it license plates registered to another vehicle. He explained that he failed to do so simply because he did not have sufficient funds to pay the required fees and transfer taxes.
A creditor who seeks to except its debt from the discharge has the burden of proving that the debt comes within the exception, which must be construed liberally in favor of the debtor. E.g., Public Finance Corp. v. Taylor, 415 F.2d 1370 (9th Cir. 1975); Brown v. Buchanan, 419 F.Supp. 199 (E.D.Va.1975).
Case law relating to the dischargeability of debts under § 17(a)(2) of the Bankruptcy Act of 1898, 11 U.S.C. § 35(a)(2) (1976), for the most part has been incorporated into § 523(a)(2) of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978. First & Merchants Nat'l Bank v. Jones, 3 B.R. 410 (Bkrtcy.W. D.Va.1980). Section 523(a)(2) is modified only slightly from § 17(a)(2) in that (a) "actual fraud" is added as a ground for exception from the discharge and (b) the new section codifies case law construing § 17(a)(2) in requiring that a creditor's reliance upon a written false statement be reasonable. S.Rep.No.95-989, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 78 (1978); H.R.Rep.No.95-595, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 363 (1977). Section 523(a)(2) is intended to codify case law under § 17(a)(2), which interpreted "fraud" to mean actual or positive fraud rather than fraud implied in law. 124 Cong.Rec. S17,412 (daily ed. Oct. 6, 1978) (remarks of Sen. DeConcini), H11,096 (daily ed. Sept. 28, 1978) (remarks of Rep. Edwards). Under § 523(a)(2)(A), therefore, the objecting creditor must show
See Houtman v. Mann, 568 F.2d 651 (9th Cir. 1978); California State Employees' Credit Union No. 6 v. Nelson, 561 F.2d 1342 (9th Cir. 1977); Sweet v. Ritter Finance Co., 263 F.Supp. 540 (W.D.Va.1967). The Bank contends that credit would not have been extended had George Krulik not represented that he would obtain a certificate of title for the automobile from the Tennessee Division of Motor Vehicles and thus perfect the Bank's security interest in the vehicle. Assuming, but without concluding, that this representation was false, the Bank is not entitled to relief. The debtor never made any representations to the Bank upon which it could have relied. The Bank's assistant vice-president testified at the trial that, under the financing arrangement with the dealer, the normal procedure was for the dealer to turn over to the purchaser the bill of sale with the Bank's lien noted upon it and to allow the purchaser to obtain the certificate of title and to register the vehicle. The Bank has not convinced the court that it accorded any more significance to this routine procedure in financing the
It was the intention of Congress to include willful and malicious conversion as a ground for excepting a debt from the discharge under § 523(a)(6) of the Act. 124 Cong.Rec. S17,412 (daily ed. Oct. 6, 1978) (remarks of Sen. DeConcini), H11,096 (daily ed. Sept. 28, 1978) (remarks of Rep. Edwards). It was also the intention of Congress that the term "willful" means deliberate or intentional and not merely reckless disregard for the rights of another. Williams v. Bryson, 3 B.R. 593 (Bkrtcy.N.D.Ill. 1980); S.Rep.No.95-989, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 79 (1978); H.R.Rep.No.95-595, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 365 (1977). See Phillips v. Rambo, 5 Bankr.Ct.Dec. 800 (M.D.Tenn. 1979) (B.J.). Under § 17(a)(2) of the Bankruptcy Act of 1898, a creditor claiming a willful and malicious conversion of a security interest was required to demonstrate that the bankrupt's conduct evidenced an intent to defeat the creditor's security interest. Third Nat'l Bank v. Carney, 1 Bankr.Ct.Dec. 921, 922 (D.Vt.1975) (B.J.). There is no indication that the Congress intended to afford relief upon a lesser showing under § 523(a)(6).
In a case similar to the present one, the court in Third Nat'l Bank v. Carney, supra, concluded that the bankrupt's failure to obtain certificates of title and to register two platform trailers constituted negligence, which, under Vermont law, was insufficient to constitute a willful and malicious conversion of the property of another within the meaning of § 17(a)(2). 1 Bankr.Ct.Dec. at 923.
The Bank contends that the debtor's failure to register the vehicle and to perfect its lien was not merely negligence, but was an intentional breach of the debtor's contractual obligation to do so. The Bank asserts that this breach of contract on the debtor's part constituted a willful and malicious conversion of the property of another within the meaning of § 523(a)(6). It is clear, however, that a conversion requires a positive tortious act and that an action in conversion will not lie for a mere nonfeasance or neglect of some legal duty. Jones v. Allen, 38 Tenn. (1 Head) 626 (1858). It should be noted that as between the debtor and the Bank, the security interest remained valid and enforceable. The Bank has not cited any authority from this or any other jurisdiction for the proposition that a mere breach of such a contractual obligation constitutes a conversion. The court concludes, therefore, that the debtor's failure to perfect the Bank's security interest does not constitute the deliberate and intentional conversion contemplated by § 523(a)(6).
An appropriate order will be entered.
(f) Notwithstanding any waiver of exemptions, the debtor may avoid the fixing of a lien on an interest of the debtor in property to the extent that such lien impairs an exemption to which the debtor would have been entitled under subsection (b) of this section, if such lien is—
(b) The trustee, after notice and a hearing, may use, sell, or lease, other than in the ordinary course of business, property of the estate.
(f) The trustee may sell property under subsection (b) or (c) of this section free and clear of any interest in such property of an entity other than the estate, only if—
(a) A discharge under section 727, 1141, or 1328(b) of this title does not discharge an individual debtor from any debt—