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In re Nance

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
556 F.2d 602 (1977)


Facts

Nance (defendant), a professional football player for the New England Patriots, had taken out a loan and in other ways had become obligated to Coolidge Bank and Trust Co. (Coolidge) (plaintiff). By September 1970, Nance was in arrears on his accounts and, after a meeting with Coolidge officers and making promises to pay, signed the “Assignment of Contract.” This assignment covered Nance’s “standard player contract” with the Patriots for the 1970, 1971, and 1972 seasons and stated that the assignment was for the purpose of providing collateral on the past-due accounts. Nance was transferred in 1971 to another team. By September 1972, Coolidge questioned the security for Nance’s obligations. Nance signed the “Declaration of Revocable Trust.” This document gave Coolidge, among others, absolute power over all amounts that the Patriots owed Nance at that time, which was money for the 1970 and 1971 seasons. One month later, Nance, at Coolidge’s request, consolidated all of his obligations and deposited the declaration as collateral thereto. By 1973, Nance was still not current. Nance remained overdue on his accounts despite subsequent meetings and promises to pay upon settling a wage dispute with the Patriots. In December 1973, Nance settled with the Patriots and paid a small sum to Coolidge, but he was still not current. Coolidge filed suit in state court seeking the unpaid balance of all obligations. Nance filed a petition in bankruptcy court, staying the state court action. Coolidge filed a petition in the bankruptcy court, seeking to have the unpaid balance declared non-dischargeable. The bankruptcy court found that Coolidge met its burden on the petition, which was to show the unpaid balance was its “property” that had been willfully and maliciously converted by Nance and therefore effectively assigned. Nance appealed to the federal district court. The district court held that the evidence supported the bankruptcy court’s finding, but that the assignment was ineffective because it did not comply with Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Chapter 154. Coolidge appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

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