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In re Hoffman

United States District Court, S.D. Texas

June 14, 2019

In re Herman E. Hoffman, Debtor.
v.
Leslie Maybin, et al., Appellees. Herman Hoffman, Appellant, Adversary No. 16-3222

          OPINION ON APPEAL

          Lynn N. Hughes United States District Judge.

         1. Background.

         Herman E. Hoffman and Kathleen Hoffman owned 211 horses. Five of the horses - four registered Quarter Horses and one registered American Paint Horse - are the subject of the case against Leslie Maybin.

         Maybin worked for the Hoffmans from 2010 to 2014. They did not pay him. In early June 2015, Maybin was laid off from his job at an oil and gas company. On June 22", he contacted Hoffman - through text message - asking whether he had work for him. Hoffman replied that he did. That day, Maybin went to the ranch to help feed the horses and clean the barns.

         The next day, Maybin worked until 2:00 p.m. Nine hours later, Hoffman called him asking if he wanted several horses. Maybin replied that he did and would pick them up the next day. Hoffman told him that if he wanted the horses, he needed to come get them that night. Maybin arrived at the ranch a few hours later.

         Hoffman gave Karen Hatch a copy of the bill of sale to give to Maybin. It is backdated to June 8, 2015. It also identifies Hoffman as the seller, Maybin as the buyer, and lists the names often horses. It is signed by K Hoffman.

         Maybin says that he understood the exchange to be for money the Hoffmans owed him. He insists that no discussion of payment occurred. In addition, he claims that Hoffman did not ask him to complete or sign additional paperwork. In fact, Hoffman told him that Karen Hatch, a ranch volunteer, had the original bill of the sale. Hoffman claims he asked Maybin for the return of the paperwork and documents. Maybin says that he gave it to the district attorney.

         Shortly after, Maybin picked up five of the nine horses from the barn. He says that because the horses were in "bad shape" and could hardly stand, his trailer could not hold all nine at once.

         A Montgomery County constable stopped Maybin on his drive home. The constable asked about the horses. He told Maybin that they were not allowed to be removed from Hoffman's property because they were under investigation. Maybin was instructed not to return to the ranch. Montgomery County investigators arrived at Maybin's home the next morning. They informed him that the horses were "seized in place" and not to be moved.

         A veterinarian, Cameron Stoudt, examined the horses when they arrived on Maybin's property. She testified that they were neglected, mistreated, and malnourished. In addition, the horses had no monetary value.

         Since Maybin has taken possession of the horses, he has rehabilitated them and paid $800 per day for their veterinary treatment. All five horses are in good health and continue to live on Maybin's property.

         On May 19, 2016, Hoffman filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code. On June 23rd, he filed an adversary proceeding. In his complaint, Hoffman sues Maybin for (1) a declaratory judgment that the horses belong to Hoffman, (2) breach of contract, (3) conversion, and (4) return of the horses, including fraudulent transfer under 11 U.S.C. § 548. On July 31, 2017, Hoffman filed a civil suit.

         2. Bankruptcy.

         At the bankruptcy hearing, Hoffman argues that he had an oral contract with Maybin because the court did not adopt sale-related documents. The court asked the parties to consider selling the horses.

         K. Hoffman testified that Maybin agreed to pay $120, 000 - in cash - for the horses. Maybin had recently been laid off. Hoffman did ...


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