FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH DIVISION [NO.
60CV-14-2648] HONORABLE TIMOTHY DAVIS FOX, JUDGE
Sanford Law Firm, PLLC, by: Josh Sanford, for appellant.
O'Neil, for appellee.
and Murphy, JJ., agree.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge.
O'Neal appeals a Pulaski County Circuit Court order
quieting title in favor of Ethel Love to certain real
property in Pulaski County, Arkansas, and dismissing her
unlawful-detainer action against Ethel. She contends the
trial court erred (1) in concluding that Ethel was a bona
fide purchaser for value; (2) in concluding that her claim
for unlawful detainer was barred by the statute of
limitations; (3) in reforming a 1999 quitclaim deed; (4) in
concluding that Ethel adversely possessed part of the
property not identified in the 1999 quitclaim deed; and (5)
in denying her claim for an unlawful detainer. Ethel
cross-appeals, arguing that while the trial court reached the
right result, it should have found that she adversely
possessed the property and that Adrianne's
unlawful-detainer action was barred by the statute of
limitations. We reverse and remand on Adrianne's direct
appeal; we reverse and remand on Ethel's cross-appeal.
this matter before us for a second time on appeal.
O'Neal v. Love, 2015 Ark.App. 689, 476 S.W.3d
846 (O'Neal I). This case involves a land
dispute between family members and concerns two deeds: a 1994
warranty deed that was not recorded until 2014 and a 1999
quitclaim deed. Ethel claims to have obtained title to the
disputed property by virtue of the 1999 quitclaim deed from
her brother, Herbert Love, or alternatively, by adverse
possession. Adrianne, Herbert's daughter, claims that her
mother, Gloria Love, obtained title from Herbert through the
1994 warranty deed and then transferred the property to
initial appeal, the trial court quieted title in the property
to Ethel and Adrianne as tenants in common with equal shares
to the property. We concluded that Gloria and Herbert owned
the property as tenants by the entirety by virtue of the 1994
warranty deed. We then ruled that the trial court erred as a
matter of law in finding Ethel and Adrianne to be tenants in
common. We reversed and remanded for consideration of
Ethel's adverse-possession and bona fide purchaser
remand, the trial court received no new evidence. It only
heard arguments of counsel concerning our decision in
O'Neal I and then considered the evidence
previously submitted and the law applicable to that evidence.
Based on our decision in O'Neal I, the trial
court found that Gloria became a 100 percent owner in the
property upon Herbert's death based on the 1994 warranty
deed, despite it being unrecorded until 2014. The trial
court, however, then concluded that Ethel's actions with
regard to the property were consistent with her being a bona
fide purchaser for value, not an adverse possessor. The court
found that, as a bona fide purchaser for value, Ethel was the
sole and total owner of the property, quieted title in her
name, and denied her adverse-possession claim.
court then found that Adrianne's claim for unlawful
detainer failed because Ethel had more than three years'
peaceful and uninterrupted possession of the premises before
the filing of the action. The court also reformed the deed to
incorporate the entire legal description of the property,
finding that, to the extent the deed was defective, Ethel had
adversely possessed the other portion of the property not
contained in the legal description.
now appeals, arguing the trial court erred (1) in concluding
that Ethel was a bona fide purchaser for value; (2) in
concluding that her claim for unlawful detainer was barred by
the statute of limitations; (3) in reforming the 1999
quitclaim deed; (4) in concluding that Ethel adversely
possessed part of the property not identified in the 1999
quitclaim deed; and (5) in denying her claim for an unlawful
standard of review for an appeal from a bench trial is
whether the court's findings were clearly erroneous or
clearly against the preponderance of the evidence. Dye v.
Diamante, 2017 Ark. 42, at 3-4, 510 S.W.3d 759, 762. A
finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence
to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is
left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been committed. Id. With this standard in mind, we
now analyze the trial court's decision and the law on the
issue of whether Ethel was a bona fide purchaser for value.
court, in its written order, found that "every single
thing that Ethel Love has done with the property in dispute,
is consistent with her being a bona fide purchaser for value,
but inconsistent with an adverse possessor." The court
then found that "on the counterclaim of Ethel Love, that
since the deed of Gloria Love was not filed of record, she is
a bona fide purchaser for value, that she is the sole and
total owner of the property, and the title to the property is
quieted in her name."
challenges Ethel's status as a bona fide purchaser. As a
general rule, our law holds that an instrument in writing
affecting real property shall not be valid against a
subsequent purchaser unless it is filed of record in the
county where the real estate is located. Wetzel v. Mortg.
Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 2010 Ark. 242. Here, it
is undisputed that the 1994 warranty deed was unrecorded
until 2014. However, there is an exception to this general
rule: when a person is a bona fide purchaser for value.
Adrianne argues that in order to be a bona fide purchaser of
land in Arkansas, one must take property in good faith, for
valuable consideration, and without notice of a prior
interest. Bill's Printing, Inc. v. Carder, 357
Ark. 242, 161 S.W.3d 803 (2004). Our supreme court has
previously held that a buyer is on notice if he or she is
aware of such facts and circumstances as would put a person
of ordinary intelligence and prudence on such inquiry that,
if diligently pursued, would lead to knowledge of those prior
interests. Id. In fact, even where a purchaser does
not have actual notice of a prior interest, the law may
nevertheless charge him or her with notice where there is
circumstantial evidence from which notice can be inferred as
a fact. 92A C.J.S. Vendor and Purchaser § 557.