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Moody v. Tarvin

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

March 16, 2016

ARNOLD L. MOODY, APPELLANT
v.
MARY A. TARVIN, JIMMY D. TARVIN, RICHARD D. CHRISTIE, AND MARY A. TARVIN AND JIMMY D. TARVIN D/B/A TARVIN TRAILER PARK, APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 26CV13-897-1. HONORABLE JOHN HOMER WRIGHT, JUDGE.

         The Law Offices of J. Brent Standridge, P.A., by: J. Brent Standridge, for appellant.

         Watts, Donovan & Tilley P.A., by: Richard N. Watts and Staci Dumas Carson, for appellees.

         RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge. GRUBER and VAUGHT, JJ., agree.

          OPINION

Page 243

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge

         On appeal, Arnold Moody contends that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of appellees, Mary Tarvin, Jimmy Tarvin, Richard Christie, and Mary Tarvin and Jimmy Tarvin, d/b/a Tarvin Trailer Park (collectively " the Tarvins" ). We disagree and affirm.

         On November 22, 2008, Arnold Moody and Richard Christie were involved in a physical altercation at the Tarvin Trailer Park in Lonsdale, Arkansas. Both men were tenants of the trailer park. On November 21, 2013, Moody filed a complaint for breach of contract in the Garland County Circuit Court, alleging that he had entered into a written landlord-tenant contract on September 18, 2008, with appellee Mary Tarvin and Jimmy Tarvin, d/b/a Tarvin Trailer Park. In his complaint, Moody alleged that he sustained serious physical injuries caused by Richard D. Christie, who worked as a maintenance person for the Tarvins at the trailer park. Mary Tarvin was served with the complaint; Jimmy Tarvin is deceased. Richard Christie was never served. Moody contended that the Tarvins had a duty to provide him with a safe living environment as a result of their landlord-tenant relationship. Moody argues that the Tarvins knew or should have known of Christie's alleged violent tendencies.

         After discovery was completed, including the taking of several witnesses' depositions, the Tarvins moved for summary judgment on December 10, 2014. The Tarvins maintained that Moody's claims were for assault and battery and/or negligence, both of which were time-barred when Moody filed his complaint. The Tarvins further argued that Moody could not avoid statute-of-limitations defenses simply by calling his claim one for breach of contract rather than one for assault and battery and/or negligence. Moreover, the Tarvins argue that even if Moody's claims were not barred by the statute of limitations, they would fail because the Tarvins owed no legal duty to protect Moody from criminal acts. Moody responded that his claim was one for breach of contract because the Tarvins' duty to protect should be implied.

         The trial court held a hearing on the motion for summary judgment on April 20, 2015. An order granting the motion for summary judgment was entered on April 22, 2015. Moody timely filed a notice of appeal, and the matter is now before this court.

         Our standard of review for summary-judgment cases is well established. Mitchell v. Lincoln, 366 Ark. 592, 237 S.W.3d 455 (2006). On appeal, we determine if summary judgment was appropriate based on whether the evidentiary items presented by the moving party in support of the motion leave a material question of fact unanswered. Madden v. Mercedes-Benz USA, Inc., 2016 Ark.App. 45, 481 S.W.3d 455 . This court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion was filed, resolving all doubts and inferences against the moving party. Meadors v. Still, 344 Ark. 307, 40 S.W.3d 294 (2001). Summary judgment should be granted only when it is clear that there are no genuine issues of material fact to be litigated, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ginsburg v. Ginsburg, 353 Ark. 816, 120 S.W.3d 567 (2003). We no longer refer to summary judgment as a drastic remedy and now simply regard it as one of the tools in the trial court's efficiency arsenal. Id. Once a moving party has established prima facie entitlement to summary judgment, the opposing party must meet proof with proof and demonstrate the existence of a material issue of fact. Id.

Page 244

          On appellate review, we determine if summary judgment was appropriate based on whether the evidentiary items presented by the moving party in support of its motion leave a material question of fact unanswered. Laird v. Shelnut, 348 Ark. 632, 74 S.W.3d 206 (2002). Our review is not limited to the pleadings, as we also focus on the affidavits and other documents filed by the parties. Id. [1]

         Here, the evidentiary items presented by the Tarvins do not leave material questions of fact unanswered. The trial court's granting of summary judgment was appropriate because the gravamen of Moody's claim is for assault and battery and/or negligence, not breach of contract. There is a one-year statute of limitations applicable to actions for assault and battery. See Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-104(2)(A) (Repl. 2015). The altercation between Moody and Christie occurred on November 22, 2008. Moody filed his complaint on November 21, 2013--four years after the statute had run. There is a three-year statute of limitations applicable to negligence and other claimed obligations not expressed in writing. See Ark. Code Ann. ยง 16-56-105. That statute of ...


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