United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
RON and LAUREN PARRISH, as Parents of L; VICTOR and LAURA CRAIG, as Parents of A; MICHAEL and CHASTIDY LAWS, as Parents of G; and RACHELLE SIVERLY, as Parents of S PLAINTIFFS
BENTONVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT; MAUREEN BRADSHAW, District SPED Coordinator; ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; and JOHNNY KEY, Commissioner DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLMES, III CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Maureen Bradshaw's motion for
summary judgment on the Craig Plaintiffs' state law claim
for fraud (Doc. 122), a brief in support (Doc. 123), and a
statement of facts in support of their motion (Doc. 124). The
Craig Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition (Doc. 158), a
brief in support of their opposition (Doc. 159), and a
statement of facts which they contend are disputed (Doc.
160). Defendant Bradshaw filed a reply (Doc. 177).
party moves for summary judgment, it must establish both the
absence of a genuine dispute of material fact and that it is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Nat'l Bank
of Commerce of El Dorado, Ark. v. Dow Chem. Co., 165
F.3d 602 (8th Cir. 1999). In order for there to be a genuine
issue of material fact, the non-moving party must produce
evidence “such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Allison v.
Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28 F.3d 64, 66-67 (8th Cir.
1994) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Only facts “that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law” need
be considered. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
“[T]he non-movant must make a sufficient showing on
every essential element of its claim on which it bears the
burden of proof.” P.H. v. Sch. Dist. of Kan. City,
Mo., 265 F.3d 653, 658 (8th Cir. 2001) (quotation
omitted). Facts asserted by the nonmoving party “must
be properly supported by the record, ” in which case
those “facts and the inferences to be drawn from them
[are viewed] in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party.” Id. at 656-57.
Craig Plaintiffs assert a state-law fraud claim against
Defendant Bradshaw in her individual capacity. To recover on
the tort of fraud (also known as the tort of deceit) under
Arkansas law, a plaintiff must prove five elements by a
preponderance of the evidence: (1) that the defendant made a
false representation of material fact; (2) that the defendant
knew the representation was false or knew that she had
insufficient evidence upon which to make the representation;
(3) that the defendant intended to induce the plaintiff to
action or inaction in reliance on the representation; (4)
that the plaintiff justifiably relied on the representation;
and (5) that the plaintiff suffered damage as a result of
relying on the representation. Bomar v. Moser, 251
S.W.3d 234, 241 (Ark. 2007); Hampton v. Taylor, 887
S.W.2d 535, 539 (1994).
Craig Plaintiffs argue that Bradshaw committed fraud when she
“made false representations of material fact to the
Craigs regarding meeting with them in her official
capacity.” (Doc. 159, p. 7). They argue that Bradshaw
applied for employment with Bentonville School District (BSD)
in April of 2013, her application was approved for hire by
BSD on May 20, 2013, and Bradshaw did not disclose the fact
of her hiring to the Craig Plaintiffs at their meeting on May
28, 2013, which nondisclosure led them to believe that she
was an independent behavior consultant employed by ADE and
not associated with BSD. Id. The Craig
Plaintiffs' fraud claim against Bradshaw fails for
failure to disclose that she had applied to and been hired by
BSD is not an affirmative misrepresentation, but is instead
an omission. Active concealment of a material fact may be
sufficient to support a charge of fraud, but in the absence
of a duty to speak, mere silence as to a material fact is
insufficient to create liability for fraud. Bridges v.
United Sav. Ass'n, 438 S.W.2d 303, 306 (Ark. 1969).
Silence, in order to be an actionable fraud, must relate to a
material matter known to the party and which it is his legal
duty to communicate to the other contracting party, whether
the duty arises from a relation of trust, from confidence,
for inequality of condition and knowledge, or other attendant
Farm Bureau Policy Holders and Members v. Farm Bureau
Mut. Ins. Co. of Ark., Inc., 984 S.W.2d 6, 14-15 (Ark.
1998) (quoting 37 Am. Jur. 2d Fraud and Deceit
§ 145). To be liable for failure to disclose a material
fact, the defendant must know of the material fact and have a
duty to disclose it. The existence of a duty to disclose is a
question of law for the Court to decide. See
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 551 cmt. m.
(“Whether there is a duty to the other to disclose the
fact in question is always a matter for the determination of
the court.”). However, underlying disputed facts
bearing on the existence of that duty are left to the jury.
Id.; see also SEECO, Inc. v. Hales, 22
S.W.3d 157, 172 (Ark. 2000) (“We have held that whether
a confidential relationship exists is a question of fact for
the trier of fact to decide.”).
is no evidence that Bradshaw actively concealed from the
Craig Plaintiffs either that she had applied to BSD or that
BSD approved her application for hire, so any liability will
depend on whether Bradshaw knew she had applied to and been
hired by BSD, whether the application and hiring were
material facts, and whether she had a duty to disclose those
facts and failed to comply with that duty. Whether Bradshaw
was in a confidential relationship with the Craig
Plaintiff's presents a triable issue for a jury, and this
question typically must be answered before the Court can
determine whether Bradshaw had a duty to disclose. There is
no dispute that Bradshaw knew at the May 28 meeting that she
had applied to BSD; however, the Craig Plaintiffs have failed
to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact as to
whether Bradshaw knew at that meeting that BSD had decided to
approve her application for hire. Bradshaw testified that she
did not learn that she had been hired by BSD until July of
2013. (Doc. 122-3, pp. 4, 6 (Deposition of Maureen Bradshaw,
pp. 36:11-19, 38:13-23)). Plaintiffs have identified no
evidence to the contrary, and their general disagreement
(Doc. 158, p. 4) as to the extent of Bradshaw's knowledge
with respect to BSD's decision to hire her does not rise
to the level of a genuine dispute.
knowledge and failure to disclose at the May 28 meeting that
she had applied to BSD also cannot support liability for
fraud. In the first place, there is no evidence to support a
finding that Bradshaw's application to BSD was a material
fact. Laura Craig testified in deposition that Bradshaw's
participation more likely than not made no difference in the
decisions BSD made concerning her child. (Doc. 122-1, p. 9
(Deposition of Laura Craig, p. 110:3-22)). Victor Craig
testified similarly. (Doc. 122-2, p. 12 (Deposition of Victor
Craig, p. 33:5-15)). Neither of the Craig Plaintiffs has
produced or pointed to evidence demonstrating that they in
fact acted or refrained from acting based on a belief that
Bradshaw was a voice independent from BSD.
the necessity of damages precludes recovery on this claim.
The Craig Plaintiffs allege no financial loss resulting from
Bradshaw's actions, and they fail to allege or provide
evidence of special and consequential damages. Therefore,
summary judgment will be entered in Bradshaw's favor as
to the Craig Plaintiffs' state law claim for fraud.
THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant Maureen Bradshaw's
motion for summary judgment (Doc. 122) is GRANTED and the
remaining individual capacity state tort claim against her is
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. No state tort claims remain for
adjudication in ...