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Williams v. Pate

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

May 20, 2015

DOROTHY WILLIAMS, APPELLANT
v.
ROGER PATE, TOMMY RAMSEY, AARON RUSSELL, JERROD WILLIAMS, TONY MARSH, JIM MARSH, and THE PANGBURN SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEES

Editorial Note:

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed official reporter.

APPEAL FROM THE WHITE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CV-2012-214. HONORABLE THOMAS HUGHES, JUDGE.

The Henry Law Firm, P.A., by: Matthew Henry, for appellant.

Lightle, Raney, Streit & Streit, LLP, by: Donald P. Raney, for appellees.

OPINION

Page 735

M. MICHAEL KINARD, Judge

Appellant Dorothy Williams appeals from the trial court's order granting summary judgment to appellees, Pangburn School District and its employees and agents. Williams argues that the trial court erred in finding that appellees were entitled to qualified immunity. We affirm.

In 2008, Pangburn School District (PSD) acquired property owned by Dwight and Lura Fouse, which was located adjacent to property owned by Williams. In the spring of 2009, appellees cut trees from the property they believed had been acquired from the Fouses. A survey conducted in 2010 revealed that the trees were cut from Williams's property. Williams filed suit against appellees for trespass, conversion, and felony tort. She alleged that appellees had unlawfully entered upon her property, cut or destroyed six trees, and damaged her land. Williams contended that appellees had not had the land surveyed prior to entry and did not rely in good faith on any established borders. She claimed that appellees had no probable cause to believe the property was their own and that their acts were done knowingly, willfully, maliciously, and in deliberate indifference to her property rights.

Appellees filed an answer asserting the affirmative defense of qualified immunity. Appellees later filed a motion for summary judgment on this basis, alleging that, as a public school district and its employees and agents, they were immune from Williams's claims pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 21-9-301 (Supp. 2013). In support of their motion, appellees filed, among other items, the affidavits of Jerrod Williams, Roger Pate, and Dwight Fouse.

The proof offered in the affidavits established that for years the Fouses had openly possessed and used as their own the tract of land where the trees had been located, which was east of a line of bushes next to a storage shed. In April 2006, PSD was cleaning out a ditch that ran along the roadway next to the school gym, the tract used by the Fouses, and Williams's property. Williams asked Roger Pate, the director of maintenance and transportation for PSD, not to clear any trees from her property, and he did not. Williams also discussed with Pate the location of her east boundary line, which adjoined property believed to be owned by the Fouses. Dwight Fouse joined the conversation. Williams told Pate, in the presence of Fouse, that her east property line was located along a row of bushes behind a storage shed on the east side of her house. Fouse agreed in the presence of Williams and Pate that the location of the property

Page 736

line was along the row of bushes. Fouse had no objection to PSD cleaning out the ditch along his property, and Williams was satisfied with the work.

In 2008, PSD acquired several tracts of property for the expansion of school facilities, including the Fouse property, and in 2009, PSD began clearing these properties. PSD believed that the property line had been established and agreed upon as being along the row of bushes. As part of the planning for the school-improvement projects, a survey was completed in 2010, which revealed that Williams owned the tract from which the trees had been cut. PSD contacted Williams to explain what the survey reflected and that PSD had mistakenly ...


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