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Norris v. Davis

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

November 12, 2014

SHERYL NORRIS, APPELLANT
v.
ASHLEY DAVIS, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE SALINE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 63PR09-372. HONORABLE BOBBY D. McCALLISTER, JUDGE.

Dyer and Jones, by: F. Parker Jones, III, for appellant.

Vaughan & Friedman Law Firm, PLLC, by: Craig D. Friedman, for appellee.

ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge. PITTMAN and WYNNE, JJ., agree.

OPINION

ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge

Sheryl Norris appeals the Saline County Circuit Court's order of May 23, 2013, dismissing her motion to set aside the April 9, 2010 order of distribution filed In the Matter of the Estate of Joseph Earl Patterson, deceased. On appeal, Norris

Page 232

claims that the circuit court erred by granting the dismissal. We affirm.

Norris is the mother of decedent Joseph Earl Patterson. Patterson was the alleged father of K.P., born out of wedlock on October 31, 2007. On December 18, 2009, and subsequent to Patterson's death, Norris filed a petition to establish paternity and for grandparent visitation against appellee Ashley Davis, mother to K.P.[1]

In a family-settlement agreement (FSA) signed on April 6, 2010, a list of pending litigation, involving the parties herein and others, was set forth. Included in the list was the Pulaski County Circuit Court case of Sheryl S. Norris v. Ashley Davis, described as the " Davis Visitation Case." The FSA distributed the assets of the Joseph Earl Patterson Estate, including allowing distribution of one-fourth of the balance to the Estate of K.P. An order approving the FSA was filed on April 9, 2010. In that order, the circuit court found that K.P. was an heir at law of Joseph Earl Patterson.

In her April 3, 2012 " Motion to Set Aside Order Approving Settlement and Objection to Distribution," Norris alleged that since the parties signed the FSA, she had discovered that K.P. was not the natural child of her son, Joseph Earl Patterson. She further claimed that the child's mother, appellee, had made false representations to her, claiming that K.P. was Joseph Earl Patterson's child. Norris claimed that, based on that representation, she signed the FSA. The motion asked that the order and FSA be vacated pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 60(c)(4), for misrepresentation or fraud. The motion alleged that K.P. had been DNA tested and found to be the natural child of another man, who is now under a child-support order benefitting K.P. Norris claimed that it was unfair to permit K.P. to retain funds fraudulently obtained by the false representations of her mother. On August 27, 2012, Norris filed requests for admissions from Davis.

In her response to Norris's motion to set aside the order of distribution, Davis claimed that Norris's allegations contradicted the letter and spirit of the FSA and that the petition was barred by the following: the statute of frauds; the parol-evidence rule; waiver; res judicata; judicial estoppel; Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure 59 and 60; collateral estoppel; promissory estoppel; detrimental reliance; accord and satisfaction; release; payment; merger; failure to tender value received as a condition precedent to seeking rescission; laches; the statute of limitations and finality of paternity; mootness; improper joinder; failure of process; lack of standing; and public policy.

She recited portions of the FSA, which states that " they have entered into this Agreement without reliance on any statement or representation of any other Party . . ." and acknowledges that the terms of the agreement were negotiated between the parties. Davis asserted that the question of K.P.'s paternity was the subject of a paternity action filed in Pulaski County, which was resolved by the FSA. She claimed that the paternity action was dismissed as part of the settlement.

On October 31, 2012, Davis responded to Norris's requests for admissions, objecting to six of the fourteen admissions requests. On March 8, 2013, Norris filed a motion for order compelling discovery, alleging that Davis had not responded satisfactorily to her interrogatories and requests for ...


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