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Brown v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

February 1, 2017

EDNA PAULINE BROWN APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. 66PR-16-131] HONORABLE ANNIE HENDRICKS, JUDGE

         AFFIRMED

          Dusti Standridge, for appellant.

          Mary Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

          LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge

         Edna Brown appeals the Sebastian County Circuit Court's order placing her in the long-term protective custody of the State. On appeal, she argues that her family was not provided notice of the proceedings and her attorney was erroneously prevented from cross-examining a witness about Edna's assets. Because neither issue is preserved for appellate review, we must affirm.

         This adult-protective-services case was opened when Edna was hospitalized on March 4, 2016, following a car accident.[1] At the hearing, nurse Louise Spaunhurst testified that she had interviewed Edna at the hospital and determined that Edna had a mild mental impairment. She also had significant facial bruising, a hematoma on her forehead, and bruises on her leg. Spaunhurst testified that Edna had wrecked her Dodge Spirit and had then, the same day, totaled her Toyota Tacoma by driving it into a deep ditch. Spaunhurst stated that the treating physician was concerned about Edna, so after she had completed treatment at Mercy Hospital, he transferred her to Sparks Senior Care for further evaluation. She was diagnosed with a severe neurocognitive disorder.

         Dr. Phillip Elangwe's physician report was introduced. In the report, the doctor states that Edna suffers from vascular dementia, a mood disorder, and confusion and that she requires 24-hour supervision in a secure, structured environment and licensed staff to administer her medications. The report states that Edna is mentally impaired and does not have the mental capacity to protect herself from abuse, neglect or exploitation and that the doctor recommends that she remain in the protective custody of DHS.

         Spaunhurst testified that Edna has a nephew and his wife but that they could not provide the level of care needed. She also testified that Edna receives $1, 058 per month in Social Security payments, $224.70 per month in Arkansas Teacher Retirement System benefits, has $11, 404.96 in her checking account, and has a savings account containing $4, 820.96. She also owns the Dodge Spirit, which was damaged in the accident, and the Toyota Tacoma, which was totaled. Spaunhurst testified that her recommendation would be for the Spirit to be appraised and sold. Edna was due to receive $4, 247 from Farmers Insurance for the totaled truck.

         Nurse Spaunhurst then testified that she recommended that Edna be placed in Fort Smith Health and Rehabilitation, previously known as Highlands. She stated that, based on the physician recommendation, she believed that this placement would be the least restrictive environment in which Edna could get the required care.

         On cross-examination, Spaunhurst testified that Edna's family was present in the courtroom. Edna's attorney then addressed the court before cross-examining Spaunhurst about Edna's assets:

Ms. Pryor: And, Your Honor, based on your ruling in PR-2016-147, is it my understanding that cross-examining this witness on the assets-
The Court: Well, I didn't get an objection yet, so I don't know the answer to that question. Ms. Pryor, if you ask about her finances and I get an objection, ...

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