(Raleigh County 10-C-271-H)
Robert McComas, by counsel Amber Hinkle, appeals the May 7,
2018, order of the Circuit Court of Raleigh County granting
respondent's motion for summary judgment. Respondent
Freddie Elaine Meadows, by counsel Thomas K. Patterson, filed
a response in support of the circuit court's order.
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of
the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented,
the Court finds no substantial question of law and no
prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision
affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under
Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Lonnie Meadows operated a car lot, 4-M Motor Sales, Inc.
("4-M"). On July 27, 2009, Ms. Janet McComas issued
a $30, 000 check made payable to 4-M Motors with the
intention of that money serving as a loan. This loan was
memorialized in an August 24, 2009, promissory note between
Ms. McComas and Mr. Meadows on behalf of 4-M, the purpose of
which was to allow Mr. Meadows to acquire inventory for 4-M.
At the time of the loan and promissory note, Respondent Ms.
Meadows was married to but estranged from Mr. Meadows. Ms.
Meadows had nothing to do with the loan or the promissory
note, but she had previously been listed as an officer of
Ms. Meadows were divorced in 2010. On June 28, 2010, Mr.
Meadows transferred his interest in three parcels of real
estate to Ms. Meadows, attendant to their divorce
proceedings. Ms. Meadows received the property subject to a
McComas initially filed Civil Action Number
10-C-271 in the Circuit Court of Raleigh County to enforce
the $30, 000 promissory note against Mr. Lonnie Meadows. Ms.
McComas subsequently amended her complaint to include Freddie
Elaine Meadows, Mr. Meadows's soon-to-be ex-wife, as a
August 27, 2010, Petitioner McComas filed a second civil
action, Civil Action Number 10-C-985, in the Circuit Court of
Raleigh County, against Mr. Lonnie Meadows and Ms. Freddie
Elaine Meadows, in which she sought to set aside the property
transfers from Mr. Meadows to Ms. Meadows. Ms. McComas
alleged that these transfers were fraudulent and made to
avoid payment of the promissory note to her. Petitioner's
second civil action was stayed pending a determination in the
original civil action as to the promissory
Ms. Meadows filed a motion for summary judgment in Civil
Action Number 10-C-271, concerning petitioner's claims
against Ms. Meadows on the promissory note. Petitioner
McComas submitted a response in opposition to Ms.
Meadows's motion for summary judgment, but the circuit
court found that Petitioner McComas failed to allege
sufficient facts to show that there was a genuine issue for
trial. Accordingly, the circuit court granted Ms.
Meadows's motion for summary judgment in a March 17,
2016, order finding that Ms. Meadows was not personally
liable for the debt. In so holding, the court noted that
there were two possible ways for liability to attach to Ms.
Meadows, either through her prior officer status with 4-M or
through her marriage to the debtor. Considering both, the
circuit court found that liability could not attach to Ms.
Meadows through either of those theories, and it granted
summary judgment in Ms. Meadows's favor, and thus,
dismissed Ms. Meadows as a defendant in Civil Action Number
10-C-271. Petitioner's case proceeded to a bench
trial against Mr. Meadows. Following the March 30, 2016,
bench trial, the circuit court entered a May 5, 2016,
judgment order, awarding Ms. McComas $30, 000, plus interest,
from Mr. Meadows's estate.
March 30, 2018, Ms. Meadows filed a motion for summary
judgment as to petitioner's fraudulent conveyance claim
against her. Petitioner filed a memorandum in opposition to
the motion for summary judgment. The circuit court granted
the motion, ruling that the case could be decided based upon
two issues: First, the court had previously found that Ms.
Meadows was not personally liable on the promissory note
signed by Ms. McComas and Mr. Meadows. The court found that
it would be unfair and unjust to take private property
belonging to Ms. Meadows to satisfy a judgment where there
had already been a finding that she was not personally liable
for the debt. Second, the circuit court found that there was
no evidence to indicate that Mr. or Ms. Meadows had any
intent to "hinder, obstruct or defraud" anyone when
the marital property was transferred, but instead had entered
into a division of property, subject to judicial approval by
the Family Court of Raleigh County during their divorce
proceeding. The circuit court noted that the family court
deemed the division of property to be fair and equitable.
Thus, the court granted Ms. Meadows's motion for summary
judgment. Petitioner appeals from this order.
have oft said, "[a] circuit court's entry of summary
judgment is reviewed de novo." Syl. Pt. 1,
Painter v. Peavy, 192 W.Va. 189, 451 S.E.2d 755
raises two assignments of error on appeal. Initially,
petitioner argues that genuine issues of material fact exist
regarding whether Mr. Meadows fraudulently transferred the
marital assets to Ms. Meadows. Petitioner claims that the
circuit court's ruling amounts to a finding that
petitioner's claims were barred by the doctrine of res
judicata, as the court previously found that Ms. Meadows was
not personally liable because she had no knowledge of the
loan; no knowledge that she had been designated as a
corporate officer in 4-M; and, further, that 4-M no longer
notably absent in either party's briefing,
petitioner's claim against respondent is predicated upon
West Virginia Code § 40-1A-4, West Virginia's
fraudulent conveyance statute. Petitioner does, however, allude
to the language of the statute when he alleges that the
disparity in the property division between Mr. and Ms.
Meadows is, by itself, sufficient to support a finding that
respondent received the property with the intent to hinder,
obstruct, and defraud creditors such as the petitioner. We
outset, we concur with the circuit court's finding that
the transfer of real property in this case was presented to,
and approved by, the family court, which is a court of
competent jurisdiction. Despite petitioner's overtures to
the contrary, petitioner has not referenced any evidence, and
there is no evidence in the record, to suggest that the
transfer of real property from Mr. Meadows to Ms. Meadows was
done so as to hinder, delay, or defraud a creditor such as
petitioner, an essential element of petitioner's
claim. We have long held that:
"[s]ummary judgment is appropriate where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the nonmoving party, such as where the nonmoving
party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential
element of the case that it has the burden to prove."