FROM THE POPE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 58PR-14-175]
HONORABLE GORDON W. "MACK" MCCAIN, JR., JUDGE.
Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP, by: David P. Glover, Gary
D. Marts, Jr., and David C. Jung, for appellant.
Sanford, P.A., by: Jon R. Sanford, for appellee First
Law Firm, P.A., by: Terry Dugger; for appellee William Scott
G. Brooks, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brian G. Brooks, for
LARRYD. VAUGHT, JUDGE.
Baptist Health Medical Center (BHMC) appeals the Pope County
Circuit Court's denial of its motion to vacate the
court's previously issued guardianship order appointing
First Community Bank of Batesville (the Bank) as the guardian
of William Scott Mueller's estate for the purpose of
prosecuting a medical-negligence action on his behalf and
managing any assets obtained therefrom. BHMC claims that
deficiencies in the original guardianship petition rendered
the guardianship void ab initio. We disagree and affirm.
was severely injured in a motor vehicle accident on June 21,
2012. He was treated at BHMC. Mueller was rendered a
quadriplegic, and on July 11, 2012, Mueller executed a
durable power of attorney to Amanda Chavers. Chavers then
engaged an attorney to prosecute Mueller's
personal-injury claims. On May 29, 2014, Chavers petitioned
the circuit court for an order appointing the Bank as
permanent guardian of Mueller's estate for the sole
purpose of prosecuting a medical-negligence action on his
behalf and managing any assets obtained therefrom. The
petition alleged that Mueller was incapacitated by virtue of
his quadriplegia. Attached to the petition was a life-care
plan prepared by Tanya Rutherford Owens, a certified
life-care planner and rehabilitation counselor.
court granted the guardianship petition, and the Bank was
then substituted as the plaintiff in the medical-negligence
suit. During the medical-negligence trial, Mueller testified
that he was the primary caregiver for his young son and
handled his own finances, which prompted BHMC to challenge
the Bank's standing as guardian, arguing that Mueller was
not incapacitated and that the guardianship was invalid. The
Bank voluntarily nonsuited the medical-negligence action
before it was submitted to the jury.
March 2016, BHMC moved to intervene in the probate case in
order to challenge the validity of the guardianship. In its
motion to vacate the court's February 26, 2015
guardianship order, BHMC argued that (1) the original order
was not supported by an oral or sworn written statement by a
"qualified professional" as that term is defined in
the probate code; (2) pursuant to the trial testimony of
Mueller and Chavers in the medical-negligence case, Mueller
was not "incapacitated"; and (3) there was no
evidence that a proper medical evaluation had been conducted
before the appointment of a guardian.
response, the Bank filed an amended guardianship petition and
attached the report of Dr. Kristi Ketz, a licensed
psychologist. The amended petition provided that Mueller and
his sister agreed that the guardianship should be continued.
On April 22, 2016, the court entered an amended guardianship
order, again appointing the Bank as Mueller's guardian.
The amended order indicated that there had been a hearing on
the amended petition and that BHMC had been present, although
the court had not yet ruled on its motion to
27, 2016, Mueller filed a motion to terminate the
guardianship, claiming that it was no longer necessary. On
August 17, 2016, the court held a hearing on BHMC's
motion to vacate the original guardianship order and
Mueller's motion to terminate the guardianship. The
circuit court orally granted the motion to terminate and
denied the motion to vacate. An order granting the motion to
terminate the guardianship was filed on August 31, 2016. No
appeal was taken from this order.
order denying BHMC's motion to vacate the original
guardianship order was entered on October 21, 2016. That
order stated that the original guardianship order was
voidable, rather than automatically void, due to deficiencies
in the original petition seeking the appointment of a
guardian. The order noted that Dr. Tanya Owen, author of the
life-care plan attached as supporting evidence for the
original petition, lacked the necessary qualifications
required by Arkansas Code Annotated section 28-65-101(8)
(Repl. 2012). The court's order then stated that the
amended guardianship petition, which met the statutory
requirements, cured the deficiencies in the original petition
and that the amended order "relates back" to the
time that the original petition was submitted. The order
further held that any actions taken by the Bank as guardian
in reliance on the original order were valid from the date of
the original appointment. BHMC appeals from this order.
review probate proceedings de novo, but we will not reverse a
finding of fact by the circuit court unless it is clearly
erroneous. Donley v. Donley, 2016 Ark. 243, at 6,
493 S.W.3d 762, 766 (citing Graham v. Matheny, 2009
Ark. 481, 346 S.W.3d 273). A finding is clearly erroneous
when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing
court is left with a definite and firm conviction that a
mistake has been made. Id. at 6, 493 S.W.3d at 766.
When reviewing the proceedings, we give due regard to the
opportunity and superior position of the circuit court to
determine the credibility of the ...