MITCHELL AND KAREN CRUTCHFIELD D/B/A GRANNY CREEK FARM APPELLANTS
TYSON FOODS, INC. APPELLEE
FROM THE JOHNSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 36CV-15-71]
HONORABLE DENNIS CHARLES SUTTERFIELD, JUDGE
Mitchell and Karen Crutchfield, pro se appellants.
Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC, by: Steven W.
Quattlebaum and Joseph R. Falasco, for appellee.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge.
appeal arises from the termination of a twenty-five-year
poultry-growing arrangement between appellants Mitchell and
Karen Crutchfield and appellee Tyson Foods, Inc. The
Crutchfields filed suit against Tyson on April 30, 2015,
alleging claims for fraud/constructive fraud/fraud in the
inducement, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, violation
of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA), breach
of contract, negligence, mental anguish, and punitive
damages. The trial court ultimately dismissed the complaint
and amended complaint, and the Crutchfields now appeal. We
find no error and affirm the trial court's orders.
their pro se complaint, the Crutchfields provided a detailed
and lengthy factual background of the parties'
relationship, beginning in 1986. The Crutchfields alleged
that Tyson induced them to build, at great expense, a
commercial chicken farm to grow broiler chickens for Tyson.
The Crutchfields admit that they were aware that this was a
long-term investment but said that Tyson assured them that as
long as they performed appropriately, they could raise
chickens for Tyson for as long as they wanted. They alleged
that Tyson told them that the chicken houses they built in
1987 had a life expectancy of thirty-five to fifty years and
that the implementation of new practices and equipment would
be a cooperative effort by the parties.
Crutchfields alleged that Tyson failed to keep its promises
when, beginning in May 2010, it mandated excessive capital
investments, implemented a discriminatory ranking system, and
made corporate decisions that were not in the best interest
of the growers and cut into their earnings. In May 2010,
Tyson informed growers by letter that it would begin
mandating "premium houses." This letter informed
growers that chicken houses built to the minimum
specifications could operate until May 1, 2013, only if they
were ranked in the top sixty percent of growers. The
Crutchfields alleged that Tyson used the ranking system to
induce the premium-house updates, which they claimed would
have taken "monstrous" investments and robbed them
of their expectation of future income. Upon the expiration of
their last contract in 2012, the Crutchfields had not made
the required updates and did not rank in the top sixty
percent of growers. Tyson informed them in an April 9, 2012
letter that they would not be offered a new contract.
Attached to the complaint were two "Broiler Production
Contracts, " one that was in effect from January 2,
2009, through January 2, 2012, and one in effect from
February 6, 2012, through May 6, 2012.
filed a motion to dismiss and for more definite statement or
to strike irrelevant allegations in the complaint. Tyson
alleged that the complaint failed to state facts on which
relief could be granted as to all of the claims except breach
of contract. Tyson also alleged that these claims were barred
by a three-year statute of limitations, were not independent
causes of action, or were otherwise not cognizable. Regarding
the breach-of-contract claim, Tyson argued that the claim
should be constrained to the five years prior to the filing
of the complaint. Following a hearing, the trial court
entered an order dismissing with prejudice every claim except
breach of contract. The court directed the Crutchfields to
file an amended complaint for breach of contract, limiting
their allegations to facts relevant to that claim and to a
time period of no earlier than April 30, 2010.
Crutchfields' amended complaint again alleged that Tyson
had made assurances it did not fulfill. The Crutchfields
alleged that Tyson had violated its contractual duty to make
"reasonable best efforts" when it mandated
premium-house updates, relied on a discriminatory ranking
system, and failed to treat all growers equally. Tyson filed
a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing that it
contained allegations regarding the dismissed claims and for
time periods well beyond the five-year period, that it failed
to attach the contract that forms the basis of the claim, and
that it failed to state facts to support a claim. Following a
second hearing, the trial court granted Tyson's motion
and dismissed the Crutchfields' complaint without
Crutchfields first argue for reversal based on alleged
judicial prejudice and misconduct at the hearing on the first
motion to dismiss. The Crutchfields allege that the court was
unprepared, had a sarcastic tone, and ridiculed their efforts
in filing their pro se complaint. Because the Crutchfields did
not raise an objection to the court's remarks below or
move for the judge's recusal, however, we are barred from
entertaining their arguments. A judge's allegedly biased
remarks are not subject to appellate review if the appellant
failed to object or move for the judge's recusal.
McClard v. Smith, 2014 Ark.App. 272.
Crutchfields next contend that the trial court erred in
dismissing their claims for fraud, promissory estoppel,
unjust enrichment, and negligence on the basis of the statute
of limitations. The parties do not dispute that the statute
of limitations for each of these claims is three years.
See Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-105 (Repl. 2005);
Ernst & Young LLP v. Reid, 2010 Ark. 255
(fraud); Quality Optical of Jonesboro, Inc. v. Trusty
Optical, L.L.C., 365 Ark. 106, 225 S.W.3d 369 (2006)
(implied contracts); Moody v. Tarvin, 2016 Ark.App.
169, 486 S.W.3d 242 (negligence). It is well established that
a cause of action accrues the moment the right to commence an
action comes into being, and the statute of limitations
commences to run from that time. Quality Optical,
Crutchfields contend that the statute of limitations began to
run on May 6, 2012, upon the expiration of their last
contract with Tyson. We disagree. In their complaint, the
Crutchfields alleged that they were informed by Tyson in a
May 8, 2010 letter that premium-house updates would be
mandated. This letter informed growers that houses built to
the minimum specifications could operate until May 1, 2013,
only if they were ranked in the top sixty percent of growers;
after May 1, 2013, Tyson would have only premium houses.
After receipt of this letter, the Crutchfields claimed that
they had several conversations with Tyson personnel about
their concerns and even "pointed out the path of fraud
and negligence Tyson had taken in recent years." In a
letter dated April 9, 2012, Tyson informed the Crutchfields
that it would not be offering them a new contract due to
their lack of updates and their ranking in the bottom forty
percent, thereby ending the parties' poultry-growing
last date on which the Crutchfields might reasonably argue
that their causes of action accrued was April 9, 2012, the
date on which they were informed they would not be receiving
a new contract to continue growing chickens. See Tyson
Foods, Inc. v. Davis, 347 Ark. 566, 66 S.W.3d 568 (2002)
(plaintiff did not know of the fraud until Tyson declined to
provide him more hogs to raise, and he suffered no damages
until then). The Crutchfields filed their complaint on April
30, 2015, more than three years after having received this
letter. Therefore, their causes of action for fraud,
promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, and negligence are
barred by the statute of limitations. Based on this holding,
it is unnecessary to address the Crutchfields' remaining
arguments on the claims of promissory estoppel and unjust
Crutchfields' claim of a violation of the ADTPA was
subject to a five-year statute of limitations. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 4-88-115 (Repl. 2011). The ADTPA provides a private
right of action to "any person" who suffers actual
damage or injury as a result of a violation of the Act.
See Ark. Code Ann. § 4-88-113(f). The elements
of such a cause of action are (1) a deceptive
consumer-oriented act or practice which is misleading ...