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Beavers v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

March 4, 2015

CARL BEAVERS, SR. APPELLANT
v.
TINA WILLIAMS, as executrix of the Estate of Emma Gene Shipp, deceased APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE VAN BUREN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. PR-2011-69] HONORABLE H.G. FOSTER, JUDGE

George Carder, P.A., by: George Carder; and Brett D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson, for appellant.

Graddy & Adkisson, LLP, by: William C. Adkisson, for appellee.

BRANDON J. HARRISON, JUDGE

Carl Beavers, Sr. appeals a Van Buren County Circuit Court order that granted summary judgment to Tina Williams and awarded her $11, 895 in attorney's fees as a Rule 11 sanction. Because the parties' dispute over Emma Gene Shipp's last will and testament presents genuine issues of material fact that need to be decided by a fact-finder, we reverse the summary judgment and remand. We also reverse the Rule 11 sanction because the circuit court abused its discretion in finding a violation on this record.

I. Background

Emma Gene Shipp lived in Clinton, Arkansas before she died in 2011. She had no children, and her husband predeceased her. Shipp's 2007 will names two beneficiaries: her brother Carl Beavers, Sr. and her caregiver Tina Williams. The circuit court admitted Shipp's will to probate and appointed Williams as executrix. Soon after, Beavers 1 petitioned the court to set the will aside, alleging that Williams had exercised undue influence over Shipp.

In August 2012, Williams moved the court for Rule 11 sanctions, attorney's fees, and costs, because Beavers's petition to set the will aside had "no basis in fact." Beavers countered, among other things, that Williams failed to respond to his amended petition to set aside the will and that the Rule 11 motion appeared to be "retaliatory in nature."

More than one year later, in October 2013, Williams moved for summary judgment. In due course, the court convened a hearing on Williams's motions for summary judgment and Rule 11 sanctions. In April 2014, the court granted Williams summary judgment against Beavers's petition; it also found a Rule 11 violation and issued a sanction in the form of $11, 895 in attorney's fees. Beavers appeals that order.

He has raised these points on appeal:
•Summary judgment was improper because genuine issues of material fact exist on whether Shipp was unduly influenced to will her estate to Williams.
• The circuit court abused its discretion in granting Williams's Rule 11 motion because Williams offered no evidence to support it.
•The court abused its discretion in finding a Rule 11 sanction and awarding nearly $12, 000 in attorney's fees because it did not explain how the fee amount ...

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