Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Phillips v. Denton

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

February 7, 2018



          Worlow Law, LLC, by: Jacob Worlow, for appellant.

          Osborne Law Firm, by: Ken Osborne, for appellee.


         This appeal asks whether Jeff Phillips presented sufficient evidence during a bench trial to repel Jewell Edward Denton's motion to dismiss Phillips's unjust-enrichment claim. He did. We therefore hold that the circuit court erred by granting Denton's motion, which came after Phillips had rested his case. The circuit court's decision is reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.


         Jeff and Susie Phillips, and Jewell (J.E.) and Vallalee (Val) Denton, lived in separate mobile homes on a piece of land outside Rogers, Arkansas. J.E. is Susie's father. Susie and her mother, Val, have since passed away. Jeff Phillips and J.E. Denton were related to each other by marriage (son-in-law and father-in-law). There was no evidence that a probate proceeding had ever been opened related to Susie's and Val's estates.

         In April 2016, the property was the focus of litigation. Phillips filed a complaint in circuit court alleging that he was entitled to an undivided one-half interest in the land. He raised four claims: (1) breach of contract, (2) fraud, (3) promissory estoppel, and (4) unjust enrichment. Phillips also asked the court to declare that the Dentons had conveyed at least a one-half interest in the property to him and Susie and that Susie's interest passed to him through intestate succession. Phillips has abandoned all claims except unjust enrichment.

         The case was tried to the circuit court in February 2017. A summary of the testimony goes like this. According to Phillips, he, Susie, and her parents (J.E. and Val) agreed to jointly purchase a parcel of land located at 12761 Douglas Lane in Rogers, Arkansas. Phillips said that he and Susie did not have sufficient credit to obtain financing to buy the land, so the parties agreed that J.E. and Val would finance the property. In turn, Phillips and Susie would make payments directly to J.E. and Val for one-half of the promissory note. It was a "handshake" agreement-the common goal being that each family would get to buy land on which to place a mobile home. Phillips said the agreement was that each couple would pay half of each note payment, although there might be some months when someone would need to shoulder more of the financial load. In the end, each couple would own half of the property.

         First National Bank and Trust Company financed the property on 12 October 1995. The contract sales price was $35, 000. The fifteen-year promissory note reflects that the bank financed $28, 000 at an annual interest rate of 10.259%. The monthly payments were $305.34. The total amount to be paid was $54, 961.20. The promissory note and the related warranty deed show J.E. and Val as the promisors and grantees.

         Both families moved mobile homes onto the property near one another. Susie passed away a few months later, in February 1996, but Phillips continued to make monthly payments to the Dentons. At trial, Phillips presented three receipt booklets as evidence of the monthly payments. The receipts track the length of the promissory note from October 1995 to December 2010 and are numbered sequentially in the three receipt booklets. Most receipt amounts are between $150 and $320; a few are as low as $50, some as high as $1200. Phillips told the court that when one couple or person struggled financially then the other couple or person would cover all or part of the note payment. The deficit would then be made up later. Phillips said that he was not concerned that it was only Val and J.E.'s names on the promissory note because he trusted them. He would pay Val and J.E., and they would make the mortgage payments. A number of receipts recite the words "purchase of land J. Phillips, " "Pmt. on land, " "land pmt." or "on land." The total value of the signed receipts is approximately $25, 000. About $3, 000 worth of additional receipt stubs do not contain signatures.

         Phillips testified that J.E. informed him that the mortgage had been paid off in 2010, that he no longer needed to pay on the property, and that J.E. gave him the receipt booklets for the payments Phillips had made. No payments have been made since December 2010. Phillips testified during the trial that J.E. informed him that he wanted to sell the land, move closer to his children in Kansas, and had placed a "for sale" sign on the property in April 2016. J.E. refused to partition the property or promise to give Phillips one-half of the sale proceeds.

         J.E. testified as an adverse witness during Phillips's case-in-chief. J.E. acknowledged that Phillips had lived on the property since 1995. J.E. contended that all the payments Phillips had made were to Val. J.E. said that he never wrote a receipt, that Val was the one who wrote and signed them, and that he knew Phillips was giving Val money for the land. He said that he did not sign the receipts with the signature "J.E. Denton." J.E. denied having a "deal" with Phillips but acknowledged that Susie and Val had a "deal." J.E. could not explain why Phillips had paid him. Phillips did not owe him money for any obligation, nor for any improvements related to the land. He also said that he was the one who gave Phillips the receipt booklets and stubs and that Phillips did not contribute toward real-estate property tax on the land.

         Phillips then rested his case. The circuit court granted Denton's ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.