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Edgefield Holdings LLC v. Gauthier

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

February 2, 2017

EDGEFIELD HOLDINGS, LLC PLAINTIFF
v.
WILLIAM J. GAUTHIER; and LINDA GAUTHIER DEFENDANTS

          OPINION AND ORDER

          J. LEON HOLMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Edgefield Holdings, LLC, commenced this action against William J. Gauthier (“Bill”) and Linda Gauthier on October 7, 2016, seeking to avoid and recover certain transfers of real property and personal property made by Linda to Bill. Edgefield is the holder of a $364, 425.52 judgment against Linda. The amended complaint includes three counts: Count I alleges that certain transfers were fraudulent under Ark. Code Ann. §§ 4-59-204(a) and 205(a); Count II alleges that, as the victim of a crime, Edgefield is entitled to recover its costs and attorneys' fees from the Gauthiers under Ark. Code Ann. § 16-118-107; and Count III alleges that certain transfers were fraudulent under Ark. Code Ann. § 4-59-205(b). Edgefield has moved for partial summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on Counts I and III. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         I.

         The following facts are undisputed. On April 12, 2011, the Circuit Court of Saline County, Arkansas, granted a default judgment in favor of Regions Bank against Vinson Paradise Golf, LLC, Linda B. Turner (now Linda Gauthier), and Robert J. Shell jointly and severally in the amount of $364, 425.52. Document #7-1. Linda and Bill married on August 3, 2011. Documents #15-4 and #15-5. The bank assigned the judgment to Edgefield Holdings on January 12, 2016. Document #7-2. In February of 2016, Edgefield attempted to collect on the judgment by filing writs of garnishment and conducting discovery. Document #8 at 2, ¶16. Linda has never made a payment. Document #8 at 1, ¶1.

         Edgefield brings this action in part under the Arkansas Fraudulent Transfer Act, which prevents fraudulent transfers by a debtor who tries to avoid creditors by placing assets beyond their reach. See Ark. Code Ann. §§ 4-59-201-13. There are three transfers at issue in the case: one transfer of real property and two transfers of personal property. First, Linda transferred her interest in real property to Bill. Linda acquired a joint interest with Bill in real property located at 7016 Ore Trail, Bauxite, Arkansas, on August 7, 2014. Document #8 at 3, ¶18; Document #15-2. On April 28, 2016, she transferred her undivided one-half interest in the Ore Trail property to Bill. Document #8 at 3, ¶19. Second, Linda transferred funds from her Scottrade account 5663 to a Boeing Employees' Credit Union (BECU) account on two different occasions. Linda was the sole owner of the Scottrade account. Document #8 at 4, ¶23. Scottrade issued a check to Linda for $22, 000 on June 16, 2015. Document #7-7. On June 22, 2015, Linda endorsed the check, and funds in the amount of $22, 000 were then deposited into the BECU account. Document #7-8 at 2. At the time, Linda and Bill were joint-account holders of the BECU account and had been since August 21, 2012, when Bill added Linda to the account. Document #7-6 at 1; Document #8 at 4, ¶25. Scottrade issued another check to Linda on April 28, 2016, for $27, 521.17. Document #7-4. The next day, Bill removed Linda as a joint-account holder of the BECU account. Document #7-6 at 3-4. Linda endorsed the second Scottrade check, and funds in the amount of $27, 521.17 were deposited into the BECU account on May 4, 2016. Document #7-5 at 2.

         II.

         A court should grant summary judgment if the evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party meets that burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts that establish a genuine dispute of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). A genuine dispute of material fact exists only if the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the record. Pedersen v. Bio-Med. Applications of Minn., 775 F.3d 1049, 1053 (8th Cir. 2015). If the nonmoving party fails to present evidence sufficient to establish an essential element of a claim on which that party bears the burden of proof, then the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

         A. Count I

         Count I alleges that the transfer of the Ore Trail property to Bill was fraudulent under Ark. Code Ann. §§ 4-59-204(a) and 205(a).[1] Document #7 at 6-7, ¶¶35-39. If the transfer was fraudulent and no defenses provided by Ark. Code Ann. § 4-59-208 apply, then Edgefield is entitled to avoid the transfer to the extent necessary to satisfy its claim and recover judgment for the value of the asset transferred. Ark. Code Ann. § 4-59-207. The Gauthiers have conceded that Edgefield is entitled to an undivided one-half interest in the Ore Trail property. Document #16 at 4. They argue that the property should be sold and the net proceeds divided between Bill and Edgefield. Id. Edgefield, on the other hand, asks the Court for the fair-market value of its one-half interest in the property. Document #19 at 2.

         Edgefield alleges in the amended complaint that according to the Saline County Assessor's tax assessment in 2016, the Ore Trail property is worth $109, 100. Document #7 at 3, ¶18. The Gauthiers admit that the property was assessed at $109, 100, but do not admit that the assessment accurately reflects the fair-market value of the property. Document #8 at 3, ¶18. Edgefield has not submitted the assessment. Because the fair-market value is disputed, the Court orders the parties to sell the Ore Trail property and divide the proceeds equally between Bill and Edgefield.

         B. Count III

         Count III alleges that the transfers from Linda's Scottrade account to the BECU account were fraudulent under Ark. Code Ann. § 4-59-205(b). Section 205(b) provides:

A transfer made by a debtor is fraudulent as to a creditor whose claim arose before the transfer was made if the transfer was made to an insider for an antecedent debt, the debtor was insolvent at that time, and the insider had reasonable cause to believe that the debtor was insolvent.

         The Gauthiers argue that there was no transfer of funds and no payment of an antecedent debt because “Linda did not owe Bill the money; rather it was his money all of the time, despite the accounts into which the money was deposited.” Document #8 at 4, ¶23; Document #16 at 3, 5-8 (“Even in Linda's Account 5663, the assets belong to Bill.”). They rely on Hayden v. Gardner, in which the Arkansas Supreme Court held that a joint bank account is garnishable only in proportion to the debtor's ownership of the funds. 238 Ark. 351, 355, 381 S.W.2d 752, 754 (1964). Hayden is inapplicable to this case. It is undisputed that Linda was the sole owner of the 5663 Scottrade account and therefore the funds ...


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