LYLE FARMS PARTNERSHIP ET AL. APPELLANTS
CHARLOTTE LYLE APPELLEE
FROM THE JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 34CV-14-29]
HONORABLE KEVIN KING, JUDGE
Law Firm, P.A., by: John Ogles, for appellants.
Jarboe, for appellee.
WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge
Lyle Farms Partnership; Katherine Lyle Harbison,
individually; Katherine Lyle Harbison, as the personal
representative of the estate of Ann Lyle; and Katherine Lyle
Harbison, as the personal representative under the unprobated
will of James Waller Lyle appeal from the Jackson County
Circuit Court's order granting summary judgment in favor
of appellee Charlotte Lyle in Charlotte's suit for
declaratory judgment. On appeal, appellants argue that the
trial court erred by granting summary judgment on the basis
that the prenuptial agreement signed by Charlotte and James
was not properly acknowledged. We affirm.
and James Lyle were married on July 22, 2003, and they each
signed the prenuptial agreement at issue here on that same
day. The agreement was notarized and signed by Jerry Carlew.
The language preceding Carlew's signature stated,
"This document was signed before my [sic] on July 22nd,
2003." Carlew's notary seal was attached showing
that he was commissioned in Jackson County and that it had an
expiration date of March 18, 2013. James subsequently died,
his sister, Katherine, was named as the personal
representative of his unprobated will.
pleading filed on February 2, 2014, Katherine alleged that
Charlotte had contractually signed away her rights to
James's estate in the prenuptial agreement. Charlotte
filed a complaint for declaratory judgment on March 10, 2014,
seeking to have the agreement declared void and unenforceable
based on four theories: (1) it was not acknowledged, (2) it
was unconscionable, (3) it was not properly drafted in
accordance with Arkansas law, and (4) it was coercive and
fraudulent. Appellants filed an answer on April 21,
2014. Charlotte filed a motion for summary
judgment and an accompanying brief on June 29, 2015.
Appellants filed a response and an accompanying brief on July
13, 2015, asking that Charlotte's motion be denied and
claiming that she should be estopped from having the
prenuptial agreement declared void and unenforceable.
Appellants also claimed that any defects in the
acknowledgment were cured by the provisions of Arkansas Code
Annotated section 18-12-208. The court entered an order on
December 30, 2015, granting Charlotte summary judgment. In
the order, the court stated that the prenuptial agreement did
not meet the requirements of Arkansas Code Annotated section
9-11-402. The court found that the prenuptial
agreement "was not legally acknowledged and as such must
be declared invalid. The notary only certified that he saw
the parties sign the document." According to the court,
an acknowledgment is "not just proof that they executed
the document, " but rather the whole purpose of an
acknowledgment "is to impress upon the parties to a
document the significance of the document being signed . . .
the parties declare they are aware of the importance of the
document" and they "realize their execution of the
document reflects their own act or deed." Appellants
filed a timely notice of appeal on January 6, 2016. This
motion for summary judgment should be granted only when, in
light of the pleadings and other documents before the circuit
court, there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
The burden of sustaining a motion for summary judgment is
always the responsibility of the moving party.When reviewing
whether a motion for summary judgment should have been
granted, the appellate court determines whether the
evidentiary items presented by the moving party in support of
the motion left a material question of fact
unanswered. Once the moving party has established
prima facie entitlement to summary judgment by affidavits,
depositions, or other supporting documents, the opposing
party must meet proof with proof and demonstrate the
existence of a material issue of fact. 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. This court also evaluates
whether reasonable minds could differ in their interpretation
of the facts.
at the prenuptial agreement, it is clear that the
requirements of section 9-11-402 were not met because the
parties did not include an acknowledgment. Appellants argue
that since the parties included the word
"acknowledge" in the body of the agreement itself,
and because the notary signed and affixed his seal, this
should satisfy the acknowledgment requirement of the
statute. However, this argument is without merit.
Our supreme court has long held that an acknowledgment is a
formal declaration or admission before an authorized public
officer by a person who has executed an instrument that such
instrument is his act and deed. It is distinguished from
a jurat in that a jurat is a simple statement that an
instrument is subscribed and sworn to or affirmed before a
proper officer without the further statement that it is the
act or deed of the person making it.
also contend that any defects in the acknowledgment can be
cured by the curative provisions of section 18-20-208.
However, this argument is also without merit. Here, there was
no acknowledgment, defective or otherwise. Therefore, the
curative provisions of the statute cannot be held to supply
an acknowledgment when, in fact, there is none.
appellants argue that appellee should be equitably estopped
from claiming that the prenuptial agreement is void and
unenforceable, because she entered into the agreement and
accepted the benefits of the marriage until James's
death; and now she seeks to "renege on her promise . . .
and receive benefits which she previously agreed she would
not ever seek." The court rejected this defense in the
order, stating that the "fact that the parties acted
under the assumption for several years that the prenuptial
agreement was valid does not correct the requirement of the
statute that the agreement must be properly and legally
acknowledged." We hold that the trial court correctly
rejected appellants' defense of estoppel and properly
granted Charlotte summary judgment.
Abramson and ...