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Sidebottom v. Watershed Equine, LLC

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

October 26, 2018

MICHAEL SIDEBOTTOM APPELLANT
v.
WATERSHED EQUINE, LLC APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM FAYETTE CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE PAMELA R. GOODWINE, JUDGE ACTION NO. 15-CI-00719

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Michael Sidebottom, pro se Oviedo, Florida.

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Estill D. Banks, II Lexington, Kentucky.

          BEFORE: D. LAMBERT, TAYLOR, AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          LAMBERT, D. JUDGE.

         This is an appeal from a Fayette Circuit Court order holding Michael Sidebottom (hereafter, Sidebottom), in contempt. Sidebottom settled a dispute with Watershed Equine, LLC, (hereafter, Watershed), wherein he agreed to pay $18, 000, plus post-judgment interest. When Sidebottom failed to pay, Watershed sought post-judgment discovery regarding the amount owed. When Sidebottom did not attend a scheduled deposition, the circuit court held him in contempt. Sidebottom was given thirty days to pay the entire amount owed to Watershed in lieu of immediate remand. After review, we vacate and remand for a new hearing.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In April 2015, Sidebottom and Watershed settled a civil dispute arising from unpaid horse boarding fees. By the terms of the settlement, Sidebottom agreed to pay Watershed $18, 000, plus post-judgment interest. The settlement also included an agreed payment plan.

         Despite the payment plan, Sidebottom failed to pay the full amount owed. In fact, he only tendered $1, 046 of the $18, 000 total. Watershed subsequently sought discovery regarding Sidebottom's ability to pay the debt. Watershed's counsel emailed Sidebottom on November 5, 2016, regarding a deposition to be taken later that month. Moreover, Watershed served Sidebottom with a subpoena on November 9, 2015, notifying him that his deposition would be taken on November 24, 2015.

         These notifications notwithstanding, Sidebottom did not attend the scheduled deposition. Instead, he sent Watershed an email reply on November 23, 2016, explaining his unavailability. Watershed filed a show cause motion with the circuit court, and a hearing was held on that motion.

         During the hearing, Sidebottom testified as to his financial situation and his assets. He also admitted his failure to make payments in accordance with the payment schedule outlined in the settlement agreement. The circuit court orally determined Sidebottom had sufficient assets to pay the amount of the original settlement. There was also an oral finding that Sidebottom could pay the respective fees and costs for Watershed to bring the show cause motion. The circuit court entered a written order finding Sidebottom in contempt of court, but allowed him to avoid imprisonment if he paid $22, 013.12, the total amount owed, within thirty days. This appeal followed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A trial court has broad discretion to find individuals in contempt when they willfully disobey or openly disrespect the rules or orders of a court. Crowder v. Rearden, 296 S.W.3d 445, 450 (Ky. App. 2009). Appellate courts therefore review a finding of contempt under the abuse of discretion standard, which means the order must be reasonable and legally sound. Id. As for a contemnor's ability to satisfy a judgment, and thereby purge a contempt amount, this is a finding of fact to be made by the trial court. Clay v. Winn, 434 S.W.2d 650, 654 (Ky. 1968). Trial court factual findings are reviewed on appeal for clear error. Com., Cabinet for Health and Family Servs. v. Ivy, 353 S.W.3d 324, 332 (Ky. 2011). In other words, the findings will not be disturbed if supported by substantial evidence. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. v. Golightly, 976 S.W.2d 409, 414 (Ky. 1998).

         III.DISCUS ...


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