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Bartenwerfer v. Buckley is a bankruptcy case about whether someone can be liable for someone else’s fraud when they didn’t know about it. A provision of bankruptcy law bars discharging debts if the money was obtained by actual fraud. Kate Bartenwerfer’s husband David sold a house in California and the new owner was unhappy with the house, so he sued the Bartenwerfers and won a judgment stating that they filed misleading documents about the house. When the couple filed for bankruptcy later, the bankruptcy court blocked the husband from discharging the debt from that judgment against them. But the court thought Kate wasn’t liable because she didn’t know about the fraud. Eventually, the appeals court ruled against her. 

Bartenwerfer argues that there is no clear statement in the relevant text and also that because of the way it’s structured, it couldn’t have meant the opposite interpretation. 

Buckley (the former homeowner) argues that the text should be read literally, to prevent discharge of the debt, because it refers to “any” debt.