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Henson v. Cradduck

Supreme Court of Arkansas

November 16, 2017

GERALDINE HENSON, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF DAVID HENSON, DECEASED APPELLANT
v.
KELLEY CRADDUCK, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; KEITH FERGUSON, INDIVIDUALLY; JEFF ROBINS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; JEREMY GUYLL; OLIN RANKIN; JANNA HULET; MICHELE WILLS; WARREN LAFFERTY; ASSOCIATION OF ARKANSAS COUNTIES; AND JOHN OR JANE DOES 8-25 APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04CV-15-1506-1] HONORABLE MACKIE M. PIERCE, JUDGE

          Morris W. Thompson Law Firm, P.A., by: Morris W. Thompson; and Brett D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson, for appellant.

          Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, by: Jason E. Owens, for appellees.

          RHONDA K. WOOD, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE

         Geraldine Henson appeals the circuit court's order dismissing her case with prejudice based on the statute of limitations. We cannot reach the merits of the appeal for lack of a final, appealable order. We must, therefore, dismiss the appeal.

         On October 5, 2015, Henson filed her original complaint that alleged her husband, David Henson, died while a prisoner in the custody of the Benton County jail and under the supervision of the Benton County Sheriff's Office. She subsequently filed four amended complaints. The defendants differ in each complaint, and the amended complaints are internally inconsistent.[1] The defendants listed in the case caption, the introductory paragraph of the complaints, and those accused of specific acts within the complaints differ. The amended complaints do not state that they are incorporating the earlier complaints.

         For example, the original complaint names the following defendants: Benton County Jail, Benton County Sheriff's Office, Kelley Cradduck, John Doe #1, John Doe #2, and John Doe #3. The first amended complaint's case caption lists Cradduck, four named defendants (Jeff Robins, Jeremy Guyll, Olin Rankin, and Janna LNU) and John or Jane Does 1-25. The Benton County Jail and the Benton County Sheriff's Office are not listed, although both had answered the original complaint. The body of the first amended complaint also lists Benton County, Arkansas, as a defendant, but it is not included in the case caption. Henson later filed a second amended complaint. The defendants identified in its caption and body mirrored the first amended complaint.

         Next, Henson filed a third amended complaint. The case caption lists Cradduck, Robins, Guyll, Rankin, and Hulet (last name for Janna LNU as identified in the prior complaint) in addition to Keith Ferguson, Michele Wills, and Warren Lafferty. She also named as defendants John or Jane Does 8-25.[2] The body of the complaint, however, does not list Cradduck as a defendant but again includes Benton County, Arkansas. In addition, she "name[d] and substitute[d]" Robins, Guyll, Rankin, Hulet, Ferguson, Wills, and Lafferty for "John Doe" defendants 1-7. The caption of Henson's fourth amended complaint mirrors the third amended complaint's list of defendants with the exception of adding the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) as a defendant.

         Several motions to dismiss were filed, including two motions to dismiss the fourth amended complaint. Defendants argued that the statute of limitations warranted dismissal of Henson's claims, that Henson had failed to state a claim against any defendant, and that they were immune to tort and vicarious liability. Following a hearing, the circuit court entered an order granting the motion to dismiss with prejudice because Henson's complaints were time-barred. The order Henson appeals reads as follows:

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF BENTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS CIVIL DIVISION
GERALDINE HENSON
VS.
BENTON COUNTY JAIL; BENTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE; KELLY CRADDUCK; JOHN DOE #1; JOHN ...

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