FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND DIVISION [NO.
60CV-15-456] HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE
& Gillham, P.L.L.C., by: Luther Oneal Sutter, for
Law Firm PLLC, by: Robert L. Henry III and Anthony J.
Marelle, for appellee Clear Investigative Advantage.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge.
Pulaski County Circuit Court granted summary judgment in
favor of appellee Clear Investigative Advantage, LLC (Clear
Investigative), with respect to appellant Jeff Thomas's
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) claim and found that Clear
Investigative "reasonably relied upon the AOC [Arkansas
Administrative Office of the Courts] website such that
summary judgment is appropriate." From that grant
of summary judgment, Thomas now appeals. For the following
reasons, we affirm.
Investigative is a credit-reporting agency that was hired by
Express Employment Agency (Express) to supply a
criminal-background report on Thomas. Clear Investigative
delivered that report to Express in January 2014. Thomas had
hired Express to assist him in finding a new job and knew
Express would obtain a criminal-background report.
January 2014 report supplied by Clear Investigative to
Express was based on public information and records supplied
by Courthouse Concepts, Inc. (CCI), an Arkansas corporation
and an independent contractor, that provides
criminal-background searches. Clear Investigative hired CCI
to conduct a search on Thomas in the State of Arkansas. The
criminal-background information that CCI supplied to Clear
Investigative on Thomas included a report about a criminal
conviction. Clear Investigative took its own further steps to
verify Thomas's reported criminal-conviction by
confirming his name, middle name, date of birth, and the
respective records. The criminal-conviction information
reported by CCI was based on court records in the State of
Arkansas as reported on the AOC's website.
undisputed that the criminal-background information contained
in Clear Investigative's January 2014 report to Express
is the exact same criminal-background information supplied by
CCI and is the exact same criminal-background information
shown on the AOC website. Thomas never contacted anyone until
long after the January 2014 report had been submitted.
Subsequent efforts were made by Thomas's counsel, but
Clear Investigative was unable to reach counsel.
Clear Investigative asserts, it is also imperative in this
case to understand that Thomas knew this criminal-background
information existed and was found in Arkansas court records.
He had known that fact since 2007 and had never taken any
steps to correct the records before the January 2014 report.
In 2015, Thomas contacted the AOC and obtained a correction
letter dated June 1, 2015. However, he had never attempted to
obtain a correction letter between learning of the
information in 2007 until 2015.
February 9, 2015, Thomas filed a complaint for an action for
defamation, slander, and violation of the FCRA. Clear
Investigative filed a motion to dismiss on April 29, 2015 and
an amended motion to dismiss on May 27, 2015. Thomas filed an
amended and supplemental complaint on June 11, 2015. Clear
Investigative filed an amended motion to dismiss Thomas's
amended and supplemental complaint on June 18, 2015. Clear
Investigative filed a motion for summary judgment on July 5,
2016. The circuit court held a hearing on August 26, 2016,
where Thomas orally took a nonsuit of all state-law claims
and orally nonsuited his claim against CCI. In its order of
dismissal, the circuit court confirmed that Thomas had
nonsuited and dismissed all state-law claims--leaving only
the FCRA claims.
that the circuit court first entered the order granting
summary judgment in favor of Clear Investigative; two minutes
later, it entered the voluntary dismissal of Thomas's
state-law claims and all claims against CCI. As noted above,
the order of dismissal without prejudice states, "[I]t
is further ordered that all of [Thomas's] state law
claims are dismissed without prejudice, leaving only the
claims under the Fair Credit Reporting Act." However,
the court had just entered summary judgment on that claim.
While it initially appears as if there are claims, and even a
defendant remaining in the case after dismissal, if the
orders are read in conjunction with one another, it is
apparent that the court granted the voluntary dismissal of
all of Thomas's claims against CCI and all state-law
claims against Clear Investigative, leaving only the FCRA
claims against Clear Investigative. The court dismissed that
claim on summary judgment, so there are no remaining claims
voluntary dismissal was without prejudice, and generally, a
circuit court's order granting a nonsuit and dismissing
claims, without prejudice is not a final order or an
adjudication on the merits because the merits of the cause
are not finally determined. See Beverly Enters.-Ark.,
Inc. v. Hillier, 341 Ark. 1, 3, 14 S.W.3d 487, 488
(2000). However, in the instant case, Thomas's notice of
appeal states that he "abandons all other claims not
otherwise asserted, pending review of this Court."
King v. Jackson, 2014 Ark.App. 488, at 1-2, our
The question of whether an order is final and appealable is
jurisdictional, and this court is obligated to consider the
issue on its own even if the parties do not raise it.
Splawn v. Wade, 2013 Ark.App. 187, 427 S.W.3d 89.
When a lawsuit contains more than one claim for relief, a
judgment that adjudicates fewer than all of the claims is
neither final nor appealable. Ark. R. Civ. P. 54(b)(2). A
party that has several claims against another party may not
take a voluntary nonsuit of one claim and appeal an adverse
judgment as to the other claims when it is clear that the
intent is to refile the nonsuited claim and thus give rise to
the possibility of piecemeal appeals. Pro Transp., Inc.
v. Volvo Trucks N. Am., Inc., 96 ...