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Edington v. Sammons

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division.

June 27, 2014

PATRICIA JANE EDINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
ALEXANDRA JANE EDINGTON SAMMONS and NATHAN SAMMONS, Defendants.

ORDER

BILLY ROY WILSON, District Judge.

Pending is Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 24) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 28). Responses to both motions have been filed.[1] As set out below, Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 24) is DENIED and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 28) is GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART. Only the breach of contract claims remain.

Since Plaintiff's claim for equitable mistake is dismissed, Defendant's stated need to amend their complaint to add the defense of "unclean hands" is unnecessary, so the Motion to Amend Answer (Doc. No. 42) is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

The allegations from both sides are verbose and confusing. Best I can tell, once you trim away the excess fat, this case is simply a dispute over two alleged oral agreements between a mother (Plaintiff Patricia Jane Edington), daughter (Defendant Alexandra Edington Sammons), and father/husband (Jerry Edington, Sr., deceased). Defendant Nathan Sammons is Alexandra Sammons's husband and Plaintiff's son-in-law. The agreements involve three different Arkansas properties: a home in Jonesboro, a home in Marion, and farmland in Jackson County.

The first alleged agreement is that Plaintiff agreed that when she sold her home in Jonesboro (where Defendants lived), the proceeds would go to Defendants. In return, Defendants agreed that when they sold the home in Marion (where Plaintiff lived off and on) the proceeds would go to Plaintiff. The second alleged agreement relates to a decision to put Plaintiff's farmland in Defendant's name, with the understanding that Plaintiff would continue to receive the rental income from the property for the remainder of her life.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact, so that the dispute may be decided on purely legal grounds.[2] The Supreme Court has established guidelines to assist trial courts in determining whether this standard has been met:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for a trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.[3]

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has cautioned that summary judgment is an extreme remedy that should be granted only when the movant has established a right to the judgment beyond controversy.[4] Nevertheless, summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing trial when no genuine issue of fact remains.[5] A court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.[6] The Eighth Circuit has also set out the burden of the parties in connection with a summary judgment motion:

[T]he burden on the party moving for summary judgment is only to demonstrate, i.e., "[to point] out to the District Court, " that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the record does not contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and, if the record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the respondent's burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on that issue. If the respondent fails to carry that burden, summary judgment should be granted.[7]

Only disputes over facts that may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.[8]

II. DISCUSSION

A. First ...


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