OF JUDGMENT: 05/21/2013.
FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. TRIAL
JUDGE: HON. SANFORD R. STECKLER. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION:
AWARDED APPELLEE A $36,036.18 JUDGMENT BASED ON
APPELLANT'S CONTEMPT OF FINAL JUDGMENT OF DIVORCE.
APPELLANT: R. HAYES JOHNSON JR.
APPELLEE: THOMAS E. PAYNE, JAMES L. FARRIOR III.
LEE, C.J., ROBERTS, CARLTON AND MAXWELL, JJ. LEE, C.J.,
IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON
AND FAIR, JJ., CONCUR. JAMES, J., CONCURS IN PART WITHOUT
SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.
As part of the property-settlement agreement incorporated in
their divorce judgment, Jeremy Moseley was required to hold
his ex-wife, Tiffiny Smith, harmless for any debt associated
with their 1998 Chevy Camaro, which Moseley got to keep. But
Moseley did not meet this requirement. Instead, he had his
car debt discharged in federal bankruptcy, which led the bank
to go after Smith, who was ordered to pay the remaining debt
Despite this clear failure to abide by the hold-harmless
provision, Moseley argues he should not have been found in
contempt and ordered to reimburse Smith. Citing both his
bankruptcy discharge and the statute of limitations, he
asserts the hold-harmless provision was no longer enforceable
by the time Smith filed her contempt action.
We find neither reason creates a barrier to Smith's
contempt action. First, the only debt discharged in the
bankruptcy was Moseley's debt to the bank. The discharge
order did not cover Moseley's separate debt to
Smith, arising out of the hold-harmless provision in the
divorce judgment, as Moseley neither listed this debt on his
bankruptcy schedules nor otherwise notified Smith he had
filed bankruptcy. Second, Smith's contempt action was
timely. Smith's action sought enforcement of a provision
of the property-settlement agreement, which by operation of
statute became a part of the chancery court's final
judgment of divorce. Because her action was " founded
on [a] judgment . . . rendered by [a] court of record in this
state," the seven-year statute of limitations
applied. And because Smith filed for contempt
within seven years of learning that the bank was pursuing her
for the remaining debt on the Camaro, her contempt complaint
was not barred by the statute of limitations.
Because we also find the record supports the amount of the
contempt judgment, $36,036.18--the amount Smith had to pay
the bank, plus attorney's fees and expenses to make her
On September 7, 2000, the Harrison County Chancery Court
entered a final judgment of divorce for Moseley and Smith.
This judgment incorporated their property-settlement
agreement, which gave Moseley " exclusive use and
possession of the 1998 Chevrolet Camaro" in exchange for
requiring he be " solely responsible
for the payment of all debt, insurance and taxes associated
with said vehicle." Moseley also had " to hold
[Smith] harmless for any debt associated with said
Less than a year later, Moseley, who had moved to Arizona,
filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona. Moseley had listed
Trustmark National Bank as a secured creditor for "
monies owed on 1998 Camaro." But Moseley did not
indicate on his bankruptcy schedule that Smith was a
co-debtor on the Camaro. Nor does the record show he
separately listed Smith as an unsecured creditor, based on
the hold-harmless provision, or otherwise notified his
ex-wife about the bankruptcy. Moseley received a
bankruptcy-discharge order on July 3, 2001.
Trustmark eventually sued Smith to collect the remaining debt
owed on Moseley's Camaro. While Trustmark filed its
collection action on September 19, 2003, Smith was not served
with process until September 2006, when she returned from
active service in the United States Air Force. On October 4,
2007, Trustmark received a final judgment against Smith for
$15,252.96, plus interest accruing from September 19, 2003,
at a rate of 11.4%.
Three and a half years later, on February 25, 2011, Smith
filed a complaint against Moseley for contempt, asserting
Moseley had violated the divorce judgment's provision
that he would hold her harmless for any debt associated with
Moseley moved to dismiss. He claimed any obligation related
to the Camaro had been discharged by his 2001 bankruptcy. He
also asserted Smith's claim was barred by the three-year
statute of limitations to enforce contracts or,
alternatively, the seven-year statute of limitations to
enforce judgments, as their final divorce judgment had been
entered eleven years earlier.
The chancellor denied Moseley's motion to dismiss on
September 6, 2012. In doing so, he found the seven-year
statute for actions founded on a judgment applied. And
because this action was based on Trustmark's 2007
judgment against Smith, the complaint for contempt was
timely. Finally, the chancellor found the discharge of
Moseley's debt to Trustmark did not affect his obligation
to Smith to hold her harmless for the debt.
A week later, Moseley filed a motion to reconsider. In this
motion, he suggested the seven-year statute of limitations
began running as soon as Smith learned Moseley had filed
bankruptcy in 2001 or, at the latest, by the time Trustmark
sued her in 2003 and served her with process. Because all of
these events occurred more than seven years before she filed
her complaint, he insisted it was untimely. Moseley also
urged the chancellor to recognize that his debt to Smith,
like his debt to Trustmark, had been discharged in
bankruptcy, as it was a non-domestic support obligation,
which, prior to the 2005 bankruptcy-code amendments, was
[¶12] In her response, Smith asserted that
Moseley failed to notify her of his 2001 bankruptcy. And
because she had been serving in the Air Force, Trustmark did
not serve her with process until March 2006, which was well
within seven years of her contempt complaint. Smith renewed
her request that the chancellor award her money ...