United States of America v. Lightford et al
ORDER granting 7 Motion for Summary Judgment. The Clerk of the Court shall enter JUDGMENT in favor of the United States of America and against Melvin W. Lightford and Carolyn Y. Lightford in the amount of $387,477.82, plus interest from Au gust 1, 2014 to the date of judgment in accordance with 26 U.S.C. § 6621(a)(2) and interest from the date of judgment to the date the judgment is paid in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1961(c)(1) and 26 U.S.C. § 6621(a)(2). These liens are FORECLOSED. The property is ORDERED SOLD. The proceeds of the sale will be distributed as follows: First, to PNC Mortgages to the extent necessary to satisfy its mortgage recorded November 22, 2002 and re-recorded December 4, 2002. Second, the entirety of the balance to the United States to satisfy its lien relating to the August 4, 2003 assessment. It is SO ORDERED. Signed by Chief Judge Kevin H. Sharp on 9/1/15. (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(af)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
MELVIN LIGHTFORD and
CAROLYN Y. LIGHTFORD
The United States filed this suit to reduce to judgment assessments against Defendants
Melvin W. Lightford and Carolyn Y. Lightford (“the Lightfords”) for unpaid federal income
taxes, penalties, and interest (Count I), and to foreclose the federal tax liens against the real
property owned by the Lightfords at 9200 Brushboro Drive, Brentwood, Tennessee, and to sell
the property, with the proceeds of the sale distributed to the parties to satisfy that judgment
(Count II). PNC Mortgage asserts, and the United Concedes, a perfected security interest that is
entitled to be paid prior to the federal tax lien with the proceeds of the sale of the real property.
Pending before the Court is the United States’ unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment
(Docket No. 7). Defendant PNC Mortgages has filed a Memorandum in Support of United
States’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff has filed no response to the Motion. For the
reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.
Where, as here, a party fails to respond to a Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court
may rely upon the facts provided by the moving party. Guarino v. Brookfield Twp. Tr., 980 F.2d
399, 404–05 (6th Cir. 1992). Those facts establish the following:
On August 4, 2003, a delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States
assessed against Melvin W. Lightford and Carolyn Y. Lightford and gave notice and demand for
payment to the Lightfords for unpaid joint federal income taxes, and statutory additions to tax,
for the years 1997, 1999, and 2000. The unpaid balance of the assessments as of March 21,
2013, was $70,728.26 for the year 1997, $108,756.95 for the year 1999, and $35,192.56 for the
year 2000, or the total amount of $ 214,667.77.
Since the assessment date of August 4, 2003, interest has accrued on the joint income tax
assessments. As of August 1, 2014, the Lightfords are indebted to the United States for unpaid
joint federal income taxes, and statutory additions, for the years 1997, 1999, and 2000, in the
amount of $387,477.82, plus interest accruing thereon from August 1, 2014.
On March 29, 2004, the United States filed a notice of federal tax lien with the Register
of Deeds, Williamson County, Tennessee, against the Lightfords, for unpaid joint federal income
tax, and statutory additions, for the years 1997, 1999, and 2000.
PNC Mortgages has a perfected security interest in the property by virtue of a Deed of
Trust recorded in the Register’s Office of Williamson County, Tennessee, on November 22,
2002 at Book 2632, page 970, and re-recorded on December 4, 2002, at Book 2645, page 655.
The payoff on the Lightford’s PNC mortgage is $151,846.9715 as of September 30, 2014. The
United States agrees with PNC Mortgages that such interest is superior to the interest claimed in
the real property by the United States.1
The United States also concedes that PNC Mortgages “is entitled to be paid prior to the federal tax lien with the
proceeds of the sale of the real property, under the principle ‘the first in time is the first in right.’” Docket No. 7 at
12 (quoting United States v. City of New Britain, 347 U.S. 81, 85 (1954)).
While a court may accept the plaintiff’s version of the facts when a Motion for Summary
Judgment is unopposed by a defendant, “a district court cannot grant summary judgment in favor
of a movant simply because the adverse party has not responded.” Carver v. Bunch, 946 F.3d
451, 455 (6th Cir. 1992). Rather, “[t]he court is required, at a minimum, to examine the
movant’s motion for summary judgment to ensure that the movant has demonstrated the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. Having undertaken the requisite review, the Court finds
that Plaintiff has carried its burden and is entitled to summary judgment.
A Certificate of Assessment the IRS uses to calculate a taxpayer’s tax liability—like the
one used in this case—is prima facie evidence of a taxpayer’s tax burden. See United States v.
Fior D’Italia, Inc., 536 U.S. 238, 242 (2002); United States v. Janis, 428 U.S. 433, 440 (1976).
Such evidence carries with it a presumption of correctness and provides an adequate basis on
which to reduce an assessed tax liability to final judgment. See United States v. Hillman, 60 F.
App’x 563, 564 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing United States v. Walton, 909 F.2d 915, 919 (6th Cir.
1990)). When the government presents such a certificate, the burden shifts to the taxpayer to
provide convincing evidence showing the government’s assessment is erroneous. Id.
In this case, the United States offered up the Certificate of Assessment the IRS used to
calculate the Lightfords’ tax liability, which was $387,477.82 as of August 1, 2014. The
Certificates of Assessments that have been provided by Plaintiff in this matter are presumptive
proof of the adequacy and validity of notices and assessments unless the record reflects some
reason to suspect those documents. Gentry v. United States, 962 F.2d 555, 558 (6th Cir. 1982).
The Lightfords have provided no evidence to cast that figure into doubt and the Court therefore
finds that there is no issue of material fact for trial with regard to the accuracy of the income tax
assessments made against the Lightfords.
When the moving party has filed a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the
non-moving party may not rest upon the mere allegations set forth in the Answer, but rather must
set forth “‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (italics in original, quoting Fed. R. Civ. 56(e)).
The Lightfords have not done so in this case, and, therefore, summary judgment is appropriate
with respect to all claims.
The Court finding good cause for the granting of said motion, it is hereby
ORDERED that the United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment be and hereby is
GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court enter JUDGMENT in favor of the United States
of America and against Melvin W. Lightford and Carolyn Y. Lightford in the amount of
$387,477.82, plus interest from August 1, 2014 to the date of judgment in accordance with 26
U.S.C. § 6621(a)(2) and interest from the date of judgment to the date the judgment is paid in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1961(c)(1) and 26 U.S.C. § 6621(a)(2).
The Court further determines that the United States has valid and subsisting liens on the
real property owned by Melvin W. Lightford and Carolyn Y. Lightford at 9200 Brushboro Drive,
Brentwood, Tennessee. These liens are FORECLOSED. The property is ORDERED SOLD.
The proceeds of the sale will be distributed as follows:
First, to PNC Mortgages to the extent necessary to satisfy its mortgage recorded
November 22, 2002 and re-recorded December 4, 2002.
Second, the entirety of the balance to the United States to satisfy its lien relating to the
August 4, 2003 assessment.
It is SO ORDERED.
KEVIN H. SHARP
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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