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Teague v. Canfield

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

December 17, 2014



Taylor Law Partners, LLP, by: Stevan E. Vowell, for appellants.

Daily & Woods, P.L.L.C., by: Jerry L. Canfield, for appellees.


This is a property-boundary case. Joe and Elsie Canfield filed a petition to quiet title that asked the circuit court to determine the common boundary between their property and property that Ricky and Niki Teague own. The Teagues counterclaimed and alleged that they own the disputed land area based upon boundary by acquiescence and adverse possession. The Teagues also claimed that they had an easement by prescription in an access road. After a bench trial, the circuit court found that the Canfields owned the disputed area of land and that the Teagues did not have an easement by prescription in the access road. The Teagues moved for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59(a)(6) of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure. The court denied the motion. The Teagues ask us to reverse the court's decision in favor of the Canfields. We decline to do so and affirm the circuit court.


Two areas of property are in dispute—a "northeast corner triangle" and an "access road." The triangular section is a nearly two-acre area of land where the Canfield boundary juts up north from its normally straight easterly direction and forms a triangular shape as a result. An access road allowing the Teagues ingress and egress to a nearby county road is located in the triangular area. The northeast corner triangle has been a part of the Canfields' property since 1889 and has been excepted from the Teague title for the same period of time.

Around 1986, Ricky Teague began repairing a fence that would enclose his entire property. According to Joe Canfield's testimony at trial, the Teagues and Canfields understood that the fence would run "straighter so that it would be less expensive, " and it would not "go around the northeast corner triangle." Teague used a bulldozer to clear a straight-line path across the base of the northeast corner triangle; then he enclosed the land with a fence. Joe Canfield insisted that a gate be installed in the new fence so he could access his property on the other side; the Teagues included a gate. At trial, the Canfields testified that they accessed the northeast corner triangle through the fence that the Teagues had installed and did so on numerous occasions. The Canfields also stated that they continued to brush hog the area, pick wild blackberries that grew there, and simply enjoy the triangular-shaped area for its habitat and wildlife.

In 2011, the Canfields had their property surveyed. The survey returned the same property descriptions that were contained in both parties' deeds. Joe Canfield intended to meet with the Teagues to talk about the survey results because he was concerned with his property rights over the northeast triangle. After a number of failed attempts to meet with Ricky Teague, Canfield filed the petition to quiet title that started this case and ended with title being quieted in the Canfields.


After the circuit court entered judgment on May 22, the Teagues moved for a new trial. The motion was filed on June 3, and the court denied the motion by written order on June 20. The Teagues also filed a motion to extend the time to file a notice of appeal, which the circuit court granted. The court ruled that that the Teagues could only appeal from the order denying the motion for new trial. Regarding the Teagues' challenge to the court's decision to deny their Rule 59 motion, when evaluating a motion for new trial filed under Rule 59(a)(6), the circuit court "must determine whether the verdict or decision is clearly contrary to the preponderance of the evidence. In examining that motion, the trial court is permitted to weigh the evidence. On appeal from the denial of [this] . . . motion[ ], the appellate court affirms the verdict if it is supported by substantial evidence." Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Tucker, 353 Ark. 730, 739, 120 S.W.3d 61, 66–67 (2003) (internal citations omitted). Substantial evidence is evidence of sufficient force and character to compel a conclusion one way or the other with reasonable certainty. Depew v. Jackson, 330 Ark. 733, 735, 957 S.W.2d 177, 178 (1997). In examining whether substantial evidence exists, the verdict is given "the benefit of all reasonable inferences permissible in accordance with the proof." Id., 957 S.W.2d at 178. In reviewing a circuit court's findings of fact, we give due deference to the court's superior position to determine the credibility of witnesses and the weight their testimony should receive. Dye v. Anderson Tully Co., 2011 Ark.App. 503, at 4, 385 S.W.3d 342, 345–46.

For the reasons discussed in more detail below, we affirm the circuit court's denial of the motion for new trial because the judgment is supported by substantial evidence.


The parties disagree on whether this court has jurisdiction to review the denial of the motion for a new trial only, or whether it may also review the merits of the underlying judgment. The Canfields argue that the Teagues could only appeal from the denial of the Rule 59 motion and not the underlying judgment. The Teagues argue that they may appeal the denial of their motion and the underlying judgment. We agree with the Teagues. Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure―Civil 2(b) and 3(a) (2014) provide that "an appeal from an order disposing of a postjudgment motion under Rule 4(b)(1) brings up for review the judgment . . . as well as the order appealed ...

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