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Peraza v. United Finance Casualty Co.

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

January 14, 2015

JOSE PERAZA AND LETICIA ORELLANA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENTS AND NEXT FRIENDS OF DANIEL PERAZA, APPELLANTS
v.
UNITED FINANCIAL CASUALTY COMPANY, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE FAULKNER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 23CV2012-853. HONORABLE AMY BRAZIL, JUDGE.

APPEAL DISMISSED.

Lucas Law, PLLC, bye: Molly Lucas, for appellant.

Watts, Donovan & Tilley, P.A., by Staci Dumas Carson; and Hilburn, Calhoon, Harper, Pruniski & Calhoun, LTD, by: Debbie Denton, for appellee.

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge. VAUGHT and BROWN, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 694

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge

Jose Peraza and Leticia Orellana, individually and as parents and next friends of Daniel Peraza (collectively referred to as Peraza), appeal the denial of a request for attorney's fees. United Financial Casualty Company (United) has moved to dismiss this appeal. We grant the motion to dismiss the appeal.

In February 2012, James Beene was involved in an automobile accident when his vehicle struck Peraza's vehicle. In September 2012, Beene's insurance company, United, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in the Faulkner County Circuit Court that raised a number of points: (1) Beene's insurance policy was cancelled on 25 January 2012; (2) Beene renewed his cancelled policy by telephone immediately after the accident on February 13; (3) Beene was told that United would not cover any loss that occurred between January 25 and when he called United on February 13; and (4) Beene knowingly misrepresented material facts by stating that there had been no auto accidents during that time. United sought to rescind the policy, or reform it, to exclude covering the loss from the February 13 accident. Peraza filed a countercomplaint for a declaratory judgment in October 2012, seeking to establish third-party rights pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-303(d)(1) (Repl. 2004).

In a mid-July 2013 letter opinion, the circuit court entered a default judgment against Beene after he failed to respond to the complaint for declaratory judgment; the court denied the declaratory judgment as to Peraza. In early August 2013, Peraza notified the court that he was seeking attorney's fees. United opposed any award, and a series of letters between the parties' counsel and the court debating this issue, including proposed orders, followed.

A letter from Peraza to the court (dated August 23 and file-marked August 26) asked for " direction from the court on the issue of attorney fees." On September 10, a copy of the August 23 letter was filed; the following handwritten notation appears at the top: " Attorneys fees denied Amy Brazil 8/26/13." On September 18, the court entered a final order that disposed of all the parties' pleadings and awarded Peraza the relief he requested on the merits. Peraza filed a notice of appeal on October 7--not from the final order--but from " an Order Denying Attorney Fees filed September 10, 2013." On October 8, Peraza filed a written motion for attorney's fees; on October 9, he requested a hearing on the motion. But no hearing was held on

Page 695

the fee-related motion, and the court did not rule on the motion.

This brings us to United's motion to dismiss this appeal, which it filed with this court in March 2014. United argues that Peraza's appeal from the circuit court's handwritten notation on a letter is improper and that the appeal should be dismissed. Peraza argues against the motion, essentially stating that the denial of attorney's fees on the September 10 letter was a final, appealable ...


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