Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Injury Law
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Appellants and Appellees owned property on two sides of Hurricane Creek. Appellants alleged that Appellees and past owners of the property placed fill material in the floodway and floodplain of Hurricane Creek and that, since that time, Appellants had experienced an increased frequency and extent of flooding on their property. The parties subsequently reported to the trial court that they had reached a settlement. However, the proposed settlement contained a provision releasing claims Appellants “may have in the future.” Appellants disputed the scope of the release. The circuit court granted Appellee’s motion to enforce settlement agreement, concluding that the agreement and release encompassed the terms actually agreed on by the parties. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court’s grant of Appellee’s motion to enforce settlement was in error where there was no agreement between the parties as to the scope of the release. View "Billingsley v. Benton NWA Props., LLC" on Justia Law

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Entergy Arkansas, Inc. and Entergy Operations, Inc. (collectively, “Entergy”) entered into an agreement with Siemens Energy, Inc. (“Siemens”) under which Siemens was to provide Entergy with services at three nuclear facilities. The agreement included an arbitration provision. Pursuant to the agreement, Entergy and Siemens agreed that Siemens would replace a large component of a generator at Entergy’s Arkansas Nuclear One (“ANO”) facility. Siemens had a separate, long-term agreement with Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. and Claus Frederiksen (collectively, “Bigge”) under which Bigge would prove crane services for Siemens at ANO. After a crane built and operated by Bigge collapsed at ANO, killing one person, injuring ten others, and causing significant damages to ANO, Entergy filed suit against Bigge and others, alleging several tort claims. Bigge moved to compel arbitration of Entergy’s claims against Bigge as a purported third-party beneficiary of the agreement between Entergy and Siemens. The circuit court denied Bigge’s motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding (1) that, under the facts of this case, issues of arbitrability were matters for judicial determination; and (2) that Bigge could not invoke arbitration. View "Bigge Crane & Rigging Co. v. Entergy Ark. Inc." on Justia Law

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Mason Mauldin, an employee of Central Flying Service, Inc. (CFS), was killed when the plane he was flying during the course of his employment crashed. Mauldin’s estate (the Estate) filed a wrongful-death complaint against CFS and Mauldin’s supervisor (collectively, Petitioners), alleging intentional misconduct, respondeat superior, wrongful death, and survival. The Estate then amended its complaint to raise a claim challenging the constitutionality of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Act. Petitioners moved to dismiss the Estate’s complaint because of a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, asserting that the Estate’s exclusive remedy was provided by the Act. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. Petitioners petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition to prohibit the circuit court from continuing to exercise jurisdiction over the complaint. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding that the circuit court was wholly without jurisdiction over the Estate’s complaint, as (1) Petitioners were entitled to immunity from tort liability for the Estate’s claims against them; and (2) in order to challenge the constitutionality of the act, the Estate must demonstrate that the Act applies to it, and the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission has exclusive, original jurisdiction to determine the applicability of the Act. View "Central Flying Serv. Inc. v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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The special administrator of the Estate of W.C. Chappel filed an action on behalf of herself and other members of a class of similarly situated persons (collectively, Appellees) alleging claims of negligence and wrongful death against GGNSC Holdings, LLC, related corporate entities, several of GGNSC’s nursing-facility centers, and employees of GGNSC or one of its related entities (collectively, Appellants). Specifically, Appellees alleged that Appellants failed to properly care for patients in GGNSC’s nursing facilities. Appellants filed motions to compel arbitration, alleging that any claims by Appellees were barred from being litigated because of arbitration agreements that were signed by the residents or their authorized agents. The circuit court denied the motions, concluding that there was a lack of authority to bind Appellees to the arbitration agreements and that the agreements were unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in failing to expressly rule on the threshold issue of whether there was a valid agreement to arbitrate. Remanded. View "GGNSC Holdings LLC v. Chappel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law, Injury Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant alleging that Defendant had published numerous defamatory statements about him on certain websites. Plaintiff later filed a motion for default judgment, contending that he was entitled to default judgment because he had successfully served Defendant by email and because the deadline to file an answer or otherwise had passed with no response filed by Defendant. The circuit court entered a default judgment in favor of Plaintiff. Defendant filed a motion to set aside default judgment, arguing that there was no proof that he had ever received service of process. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the alternative service of process by email in this case was insufficient because it was not reasonably calculated to give actual notice to Defendant. View "Steward v. Kuettel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law
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Appellant, as the special administrator of the Estate of Robert Nash, filed a wrongful-death suit against Dr. Victor Williams alleging that Dr. Williams placed a nasogastric tube against Nash’s express wishes and that he placed it improperly, thereby causing Nash to aspirate and suffer hypoxic brain injury. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Williams. On appeal, Appellant argued, among other things, that the circuit court abused its discretion in giving the jury erroneous and confusing instructions in a case premised on lack of consent. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in instructing the jury regarding the issue of informed consent. View "Millsap v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Following a motor vehicle accident, Plaintiff filed a negligence suit against Defendant. Because he was serving on active duty at the time of the suit, Defendant requested a stay of the proceedings. The circuit court granted Defendant’s application. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the circuit court abused its discretion in granting the application for stay because Defendant failed to meet the requirements for a stay under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that an order granting or denying a stay pursuant to the SCRA is not a final order from which an appeal can be taken.View "Ballesteros v. Roney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law
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In 2012, Appellant, clerk for the City of Harrisburg, filed a complaint and petition for writ of quo warranto seeking to compel the City to pay her wages due for the joint position of city clerk/treasurer and alleging that the present treasurer of the City was occupying the office without legal authority. The City filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that Appellant, as city clerk, was not the successor to the former office of city clerk/treasurer and was therefore not entitled to any additional wages. The circuit court denied the City’s summary judgment motion and then dismissed Appellant’s complaint with prejudice, concluding that the ordinance relied upon by Appellant did not recognize and fund the combined office of city clerk/treasurer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that the ordinance did not join the offices of city clerk and treasurer so as to establish a combined office of city clerk/treasurer. View "King v. City of Harrisburg" on Justia Law

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Mary Berryhill sued Frances Synatzke, alleging that Synatzke was responsible for a car accident between Berryhill and Synatzke. Berryhill also sued seventy John Does, including a John Doe that was designated to represent the estate of any defendant who predeceased the service of the complaint. At the time the complaint was filed, however, Synatzke had died. After the statute of limitations had passed, Berryhill filed an amended complaint naming Synatzke’s estate as a party. The estate filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that the original complaint was a nullity because Synatzke had died prior to the filing of the original complaint, and therefore, the complaint could not be transformed into a valid suit by amending the complaint after the statute of limitations had passed. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the estate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the identity of the tortfeasor, the estate, was unknown to Berryhill at the time she filed her original complaint, Ark. Code Ann. 16-56-125 was applicable to her claim and tolled the statute of limitations; and (2) because there was a valid pleading to relate back to, the real party, the estate, could be substituted for the John Doe defendant in the original complaint. View "Berryhill v. Synatzske" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the United States pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), alleging that the negligence of the United States Forest Service caused the death of several campers, who were camping in or near the Albert Pike Recreation Area and were caught in a flood caused by a rapid rise in the Little Missouri River and its tributaries. The United States asserted the subject-matter jurisdiction was lacking under the FTCA because the Arkansas Recreational Use Statute provided the government with immunity. Plaintiffs alleged that the United States was not immune from liability because it "maliciously" failed to warn or guard against an ultrahazardous condition of which it knew to be dangerous. The United States district court certified a question of law to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which answered by holding that “malicious” conduct under Ark. Code Ann. 18-11-307(1) includes conduct in reckless disregard of the consequences from which malice may be inferred. View "Roeder v. United States" on Justia Law