Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Commercial Law
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Appellant, a group of taxpayers in Searcy County known as the Searcy County Counsel for Ethical Government, filed a complaint alleging that Appellee, a county judge, had unlawfully sold equipment belonging to the county to Opal and Clifford Aday and requested a declaratory judgment that the judge had neglected the official duty of his office and that the sale was null and void. The complaint named the judge and Opal Aday as defendants. The district court granted summary judgment for the judge, finding that the judge complied with Ark. Code Ann. 14-16-106(c) in the sale of the equipment. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's appeal, holding that although the summary judgment order purported to dismiss Appellant's complaint, it failed to dispose of the claim against Opal Aday, and therefore, the order was not a final, appealable order and the Court was barred from considering the appeal.

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Gene Shields, an agent for State Farm Insurance Companies, opened an account with Bankcorp Bank. The owner of the account was State Farm. Shields's office manager subsequently diverted funds that were due to be deposited into the account, and Shields allegedly suffered at least $77,925 in losses as a result of over 100 overdrafts on the account. Shields sued Bancorp Bank for negligence in failing to notify him of overdrafts. Bancorp moved to compel arbitration based on the account's arbitration clause. The circuit court denied the motion to compel, and Bancorp appealed. At issue on appeal was whether the parties' 2005 agreement to modify the contract entered into by the parties in 1982 controlled when Shields signed the agreement but State Farm was not a party to the contract. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the 2005 agreement, which contained the arbitration provision, was not binding because the agreement was entered into in contravention of the rights of the account owner, State Farm.

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Appellant bank sued Appellees, a corporation and its members, after loans granted to Appellees went into default and Appellees transferred certain property into a trust. After a jury rendered its verdicts, the circuit court (1) granted foreclosure against the property securing the debts, (2) dismissed Appellant's claim to avoid the transfer of one of the properties in the trust and ruled that the deed of another property in the trust was void, and (3) denied Appellant's various post-trial motions. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded on direct appeal and affirmed on cross-appeal, holding (1) the circuit court erred in submitting Appellant's foreclosure and fraudulent-transfer claims to the jury because they were equitable in nature; and (2) the circuit court properly granted Appellant's motion for a directed verdict on Appellee's abuse-of-process claim. Remanded.

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May Construction Company appealed from a circuit court order declaring a lien on real property, owned by Town Creek Construction & Development, subordinate to a mortgage filed by Chambers Bank and unenforceable against a lien bond issued by Ohio Casualty Insurance Company. For reversal, May argued that the circuit court erred in (1) interpreting the materialmen's lien statute, (2) ruling that construction commenced after the execution of Chambers's mortgage, and (3) finding that May could not recover against the lien bond. Town Creek cross-appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in ruling that May was entitled to a lien in the amount of $353,000. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the direct appeal, holding that the circuit court erred in ruling that construction had not commenced prior to the recording of Chambers's lien because the ruling was based on the intent of the parties contrary to that plain language of the materialmen's lien statute. The Court then affirmed the cross-appeal, finding that the circuit court did not err in calculating the amount Town Creek owed May.

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Plaintiffs Mark and Karla Gibbs brought claims in the federal district court against, among other defendants, Corinthian Title, Jeffrey Brown, Shelley Hickson, and Christine Tueckes, for civil conspiracy. The above defendants argued that the federal district court did not have in personam jurisdiction over them because Arkansas's long-arm statute does not allow application of conspiracy jurisdiction. The federal district court certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether the use of the conspiracy theory of in personam jurisdiction violates the state's long-arm statute. The Court answered in the negative. Arkansas's long-arm statute does not limit the exercise of personal jurisdiction to certain enumerated circumstances and is therefore limited only by federal constitutional law. Because jurisdiction based on the conspiracy theory does not violate due process, the conspiracy theory of in personam jurisdiction does not violate Arkansas's long-arm statute.