PATEL (ANILKUMAR S.) VS. PATEL (MAHENDRA P.)Annotate this Case
RENDERED: OCTOBER 24, 2008; 2:00 P.M.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
Commonwealth of Kentucky
Court of Appeals
ANILKUMAR S. PATEL
APPEAL FROM MCCRACKEN CIRCUIT COURT
HONORABLE R. JEFFREY HINES, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 06-CI-00446
MAHENDRA P. PATEL
** ** ** ** **
BEFORE: CLAYTON, NICKELL, AND TAYLOR, JUDGES.
CLAYTON, JUDGE: Anilkumar S. Patel (Anil) appeals the decision of the
McCracken Circuit Court awarding him $4,930 for repayment of money owed to
him by Mahendra P. Patel (Mike). Specifically, Anil argues that the trial court
erred in its determination of the original loan amount, and therefore Mike owes
him more than the amount awarded. Having reviewed the record, the arguments of
the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The facts in this case involve money owed back and forth between
Anil and Mike. Anil filed his complaint on April 27, 2006, for a judgment of
$45,450. According to Anil’s complaint, Mike owed him $42,500 for alleged
loans and $2,950 for unpaid wages. In his trial brief and at trial, however, Anil
amended the amount owed to $24,030 because in February and March 2005 three
(3) payments, which totaled $18,470, were made to reduce the amount of the
money paid by third parties on Mike’s behalf. To resolve the issues in this dispute,
a bench trial was held on January 31, 2007.
During the trial the parties presented conflicting testimony regarding
various business entanglements. First, while Anil claimed he was owed a loan,
Mike countered that Anil’s purported loan actually represented a business
investment by Anil in Baker Energy, Inc. (Baker Energy is now known as Jay
Ambica, which operates the T-Mart in Paducah, Kentucky.) In fact, Anil provided
copies of his two (2) $20,000 cashier checks, which were made out to Baker
Energy. The additional $2,500 was in cash, which Mike acknowledged, but said it
was for a personal loan. Furthermore, Mike admitted at trial that the money
benefited him. Ken Patel (Ken), a retired real estate broker, testified at trial that
Anil had wanted to buy a 20% share of Baker Energy, but it did not work out
between the parties. Ken is acquainted with both parties. He also stated that he
had spoken with Mike about the money and its need for repayment. During Mike’s
testimony, he acknowledged that he had spoken more than once with Ken about
the dispute. Essentially, Anil claims that he is still owed $24,030 ($42,500 less
In Mike’s version, Anil, who was moving to Chicago and getting
married, never loaned him money but invested in Baker Energy, Inc. According to
Mike and his witnesses, Anil M. Patel (Mike’s son), Ramesh Patel (Ramesh),
Mike, Anil and the owner of Shree Meladi, Inc., had a meeting, sometime in
December 2004, wherein allegedly Anil agreed to a set-off portion from Shree
Meladi to off-set a portion of the $42,500 owed him by Mike. He would exchange
part of the money he paid for Baker Energy for Mike’s profits from Shree Meladi.
(Shree Meladi is a gas station/convenience store in Oklahoma.) Mike claimed that
Anil and he were part owners of Shree Meladi.
During trial, Mike proffered a document wherein, he claims, the
parties prepared an accounting for the above transaction and agreed that Mike still
owed $23,400 to Anil. Mike and his witnesses allege the $23,400 amount on the
document represents this debt and that Anil’s signature shows his agreement.
Therefore, Mike contends that his debt to Anil, less the set-off amount for Shree
Meladi, is reduced to $23,400. This amount is then further reduced by $18,470 in
third-party payments leaving a remaining debt of $4,930.
At trial, Mike, his son, and Ramesh testified that they were present at
the time of the accounting and witnessed Anil sign the document. The document
submitted, Defendant’s Exhibit 1, shows a number of calculations, foreign script,
and some English words. It is not dated nor does it delineate its purpose. And,
more importantly, it is a copy not an original. Anil at trial rebutted the validity of
the document by providing the original in blue ink. The original, Plaintiff’s
Exhibit 2, does not contain any notation about the $23,400 or Anil’s signature.
Anil claims it is not his signature and a fraud. No explanation for the difference
between the parties’ exhibits was proffered by Mike, other than the fact that Mike
and his witnesses claim that they saw Anil sign the document. (His supposed
signature – A.S.P. - is on their copy.) Additionally, to dispute their testimony, Anil
stated he never had an ownership interest in Shree Meladi, never reported any
business income or loss from it on his tax return, and is not noted as an owner on
its corporate records.
Regarding employment Anil gave detailed testimony that, between
June 2, 2004, and August 10, 2004, he worked sixty-two (62) days for $550 per
week. Anil contends that he worked nine (9) weeks but was only paid $2,000.
Hence, he claims he is still owed wages in the amount of $2,950. Yet, Mike
counters regarding Anil’s claim for unpaid wages, that Anil was paid $500 per
week and worked for four (4) weeks only. To support this assertion, Mike
provided a copy of Anil’s paycheck and copies of the 2004 employee tax
information. Furthermore, his son, Anil M. testified that he and Anil worked the
same job during that same time period and that Anil only worked four (4) weeks
and was so paid.
Following the bench trial, the trial court issued its Findings of Fact,
Conclusions of Law and Judgment on February 9, 2007. Therein, the court held
that Anil was still owed $4,930, based on Mike’s calculations, had been paid in full
for his employment, and further, that Mike correctly established the facts of the
The proper standard of review of trial court’s evidentiary rulings is
abuse of discretion. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Thompson, 11 S.W.3d 575
(Ky. 2000). And Kentucky Rule of Civil Procedure (CR) 52.01 states in pertinent
part, for actions tried without a jury, “due regard shall be given to the opportunity
of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.” In circumstances of
conflicting testimony, a reviewing court may not and will not disturb the findings
of the trial court so long as it is supported by substantial evidence. Bentley v.
Bentley, 500 S.W.2d 411-12 (Ky. 1973), (citing Sharp v. Sharp, 491 S.W.2d 639
(Ky. 1973) and Adams v. Adams, 412 S.W.2d 857 (Ky. 1967)). Furthermore, our
Court has stated “[s]ubstantial evidence has been conclusively defined by
Kentucky courts as that which, when taken alone or in light of all the evidence, has
sufficient probative value to induce conviction in the mind of a reasonable person.”
Bowling v. Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, 891 S.W.2d
406, 409 (Ky. App.1995).
Moreover, CR 52.01 requires the court to make specific findings of
fact and separate conclusions of law before rendering judgment in a bench trial.
Skelton v. Roberts, 673 S.W.2d 733 (Ky. App. 1984). The language found in this
rule is mandatory. Id.; Standard Farm Stores v. Dixon, 339 S.W.2d 440 (Ky.
1960). Furthermore, the findings must be supported by substantial evidence. See
Bowling, 891 S.W.2d at 409.
With respect to the trial court’s finding that Anil has been adequately
compensated by Mike, $2,000, and for the correct period of time, one month, we
defer to the principle that the trial court judge is in the best position to evaluate the
factual matters in a bench trial, and we perceive no abuse of discretion. Hence, we
affirm this portion of its judgment.
But with regards to the remaining amount of the loan, the trial court
left certain findings unclear. We observe that Anil has cast doubt upon the
probative value of Mike’s evidence. To summarize, while it is true that there is no
writing supporting the proposition that the money exchanged between the parties
was a loan, it is uncontroverted that Mike owes money to Anil. Additionally, the
parties do not dispute the original amount of the loan/investment, $42,500. But the
question is the amount of the loan that Mike still owes Anil. Mike claims, based
on the amount listed in a purported accounting, that he only owes $4,930. Here,
the court does not address the differences between the original and the copy of the
document purporting to demonstrate the accuracy of Mike’s accounting. And Anil
claims, based on the original amount of the transaction less the third-party
payments, that he is still owed $24,030.
Simply put, given the evidence, we think the trial court did not
address the issue of whether the loan was still $24,030 (Anil’s claim) or $23,400
(Mike’s claim). A perusal of the Trial Order shows that it perfunctorily remarks
“[u]pon reviewing of the evidence, the Court finds that the Defendant has correctly
established the facts of the case.” Neither the record nor the trial court’s findings
allow us to conclusively ascertain the rationale behind the court’s finding as to the
amount of Mike’s remaining obligation to Anil. However, CR 52.04 states:
A final judgment shall not be reversed or remanded
because of the failure of the trial court to make a finding
of fact on an issue essential to the judgment unless such
failure is brought to the attention of the trial court by a
written request for a finding on that issue or by a motion
pursuant to Rule 52.02.
Hence, under CR 52.04, a party must bring to the attention of the trial court, by
written request, the necessity for a finding on an issue. See Abuzant v. Shelter Ins.
Co., 977 S.W.2d 259-60 (Ky. App. 1998). Therefore, Anil has waived any
argument he may have had as to the adequacy of the findings of fact because he
did not make a written request to the trial court for more specific findings as
required by CR 52.04.
Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the McCracken Circuit Court.
TAYLOR, JUDGE, CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY.
NICKELL, JUDGE, CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY AND FILES
NICKELL, JUDGE, CONCURRING IN RESULT ONLY: I concur
with the result reached by the majority but write separately to express my concern
that one could read this opinion to say the trial court failed to consider all the
evidence presented during the bench trial. I have no reason to draw such a
conclusion. Although the trial court’s findings of fact could have been more
extensive, the mere fact that its order did not specifically reference all the evidence
adduced at the bench trial does not automatically mean the court ignored any
evidence or acted arbitrarily. Miller v. Eldridge, 146 S.W.3d 909, 921 (Ky. 2004).
Thus, I refrain from making such an inference.
I agree with the majority’s conclusion that Anil’s failure to follow the
mandates of CR 52.04 forecloses any argument regarding the completeness of the
trial court’s findings of fact. However, the trial court did make some findings of
fact and we must apply the mandates of CR 52.01 to those findings. I believe that
based upon the record before us the findings actually made by the trial court were
supported by substantial evidence and therefore were not clearly erroneous.
Absent substantial evidence, we would be required to reverse the decision
regardless of whether the argument was properly preserved under CR 52.04.
Miller, supra, 146 S.W.3d at 922; See also Cherry v. Cherry, 634 S.W.2d 423 (Ky.
1982). On the facts before this Court, I cannot conclude the trial court abused its
discretion in reaching its decision.
For these reasons, I concur with the majority in result only.
BRIEF FOR APPELLANT:
BRIEF FOR APPELLEE:
Todd A. Farmer
Zachary D. McMillan