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Pulliam v. Murphy

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

March 2, 2016

RIKKA I. PULLIAM, APPELLANT
v.
SHERRY P. MURPHY, R. CARTER PULLIAM, AND RICHARD PULLIAM, AS COTRUSTEES OF THE RAY H. PULLIAM LIVING TRUST, APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE CRITTENDEN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CV-14-116. HONORABLE VICTOR L. HILL, JUDGE.

         For Appellant: BYRON WADE BOWEN.

         For Appellee: THOMAS FRANKLIN DONALDSON, MICHAEL D SNELL.

         BART F. VIRDEN, Judge. GLADWIN, C.J., agrees. GRUBER, J., concurs.

          OPINION

Page 712

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

         Appellant Rikka I. Pulliam filed a complaint against appellees Sherry P. Murphy, R. Carter Pulliam, and Richard Pulliam, as cotrustees of the Ray H. Pulliam Living Trust, alleging breach of the trust agreement. The Crittenden County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to appellees. On appeal, Rikka argues that appellees owed a duty of loyalty to her in

Page 713

their administration of the trust and that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether they breached that duty. We reverse and remand for trial.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         In June 1997, Ray H. Pulliam and Ione O. Pulliam created a living trust involving 1,320 acres of farmland for the benefit of their five adult children. After the Pulliams had passed away, four of those children, including Rikka, became cotrustees. Article Seventeen, section five of the trust provided,

Special Instructions Regarding the Farm. During my life, my spouse and I have owned tracts of land which we have referred to among ourselves and our family as " the farm." The farm is the real property to be administered under Article Eleven of this agreement upon the death of both my spouse and I. One and a half acres of the farm was sold to our son, R. Carter Pulliam, for consideration of $7,500 ($5,000 per acre) during my lifetime. My Trustee shall offer to any of my other children the same privilege to purchase one and a half acre of land at the same consideration. The consideration need not be actual cash but may also be improvements or work on the farm, for example, but any construction must be farm related. In other words, the construction cannot be a garbage dump, gravel storage or beer parlor, etc.

(Emphasis added.)

         In addition to owning the tract of land referenced in the trust agreement, Carter, along with Richard, leased trust property that they farmed. In November 2013, Rikka's lawyer notified appellees of Rikka's request to buy a oneand-a-half-acre tract along Highway 79 located just north of Carter's one-and-a-half acres. Carter objected to selling Rikka that particular tract because the area was used for parking farm equipment and provided access for commercial trucks to reach the granary silos on his property. Sherry had initially agreed to sell Rikka the tract of land but soon after rescinded her consent to the sale after speaking with Carter, citing the land's " current use in farming" as her reason for ...


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