APPEAL FROM THE WHITE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO.CV-13-419. HONORABLE THOMAS MORGAN HUGHES, JUDGE.
The Key Firm, PLLC, by: Shawn Key, for appellants.
Simpson, Simpson & Mercer, P.A., by: Justin G. Mercer; and Brett D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson, for appellees.
WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge. GLADWIN, C.J., and KINARD, J., agree.
WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge
Ralph Crenshaw and Donna Crenshaw (the Crenshaws) appeal from the circuit court's order granting them attorney's fees of $1,500 despite petitioning the court for $18,375. On appeal, the Crenshaws argue
that the circuit court erred in reducing their request for attorney's fees without explanation or analysis under the Chrisco factors. Riley Vernon McFalls and Linda Sue McFalls (the McFallses) cross-appeal, arguing that the circuit court erred in rendering a judgment against them individually when the Crenshaws sued them in their representative capacities as trustees of the Riley Vernon McFalls Revocable Trust and the Linda Sue McFalls Revocable Trust. We dismiss on direct appeal and reverse and remand on cross-appeal.
In September 2013, the Crenshaws entered into a contract for the sale of their residence in White County, Arkansas, to their neighbors, the McFallses. Two days before the scheduled closing of the transaction, the McFallses rescinded acceptance of the contract and backed out of the purchase. The Crenshaws filed suit for specific performance on November 12, 2013. The McFallses answered in their response to the complaint filed on December 5, 2013, in which they denied subject-matter jurisdiction and proper venue. The Crenshaws filed a motion for summary judgment and supporting brief on December 12, 2013, to which the McFallses responded on December 31, 2013, and which the court denied in an order entered on January 10, 2014.
A bench trial was held on January 27, 2014, at the opening of which the McFallses conceded liability. Accordingly, the trial proceeded on damages only. At the close of the trial, the circuit court found in favor of the Crenshaws and awarded damages of $22,573.40 plus costs and attorney's fees, which was reduced to a final judgment filed on February 19, 2014. Shortly before the proceeding ended, after the circuit announced its decision on damages, the McFallses' attorney made the following statement:
The only concern or question that I have is that plaintiffs sued the defendants in their individual names and in the name of their revocable trust. There was no evidence established that there is a trust. There was nothing admitted that there was a trust. So I would ask that any judgment simply be applied towards the defendants in their individual capacity.
The Crenshaws' attorney responded that the McFallses were " clearly named in their capacities as trustees," " were served as such," and that there was " no indication on any of the pleadings that [the McFallses] were sued in their individual capacities." The circuit court granted both parties ten days to submit briefs on " whether there's enough testimony or evidence to
substantiate a judgment against the trust." Accordingly, it stated from the bench that the judgment was against the ...