FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH DIVISION [NO.
60CV-14-2648] HONORABLE TIMOTHY DAVIS FOX, JUDGE.
O'Neil, for appellant.
Sanford Law Firm, PLLC, by: Josh Sanford, for appellee.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, JUDGE.
appeal arises from a decision of the Pulaski County Circuit
Court determining ownership of certain real property located
in Pulaski County as between two family members-Ethel Love
and her niece, Adrianne O'Neal. The trial court denied
Ethel's claim for adverse possession, concluding that
Ethel's occupancy of the property had at all times been
permissive. The court then granted Adrianne's claim for
unlawful detainer, finding that Adrianne was the sole and
exclusive owner of the property. Ethel appeals those
findings. Because the trial court's finding of permissive
use was clearly erroneous, we reverse and remand for further
consideration of Ethel's adverse-possession claim.
case is before us for the third time. While our previous opinions
set forth the facts in some detail, a brief review of those
facts and the appellate history of this action are necessary
for a complete understanding of the current posture of the
property at issue here was originally owned by Herbert Love,
individually. Herbert is Adrianne's father and
Ethel's brother. During his lifetime, Herbert executed
two seemingly conflicting deeds to the property.
traces her ownership interest back to a 1995 deed from
Herbert, which purportedly granted an interest in the
property to her mother, Gloria Love. The 1995 deed was a
warranty deed from Herbert Love and Gloria Love, husband and
wife, to Herbert Love and Gloria Love. Although issued in
1995, the warranty deed was not recorded until October 2014.
Before this deed was recorded, Gloria conveyed her interest
in the property by quitclaim deed to Adrianne in June 2014.
who has lived on the property since 1999, traces her
ownership interest back to a 1999 quitclaim deed purportedly
granting Herbert's interest in the property to her. When
Herbert executed the quitclaim deed, however, he was still
married to Gloria, although they were estranged at the time.
After the conveyance, Herbert continued to live on the
property with Ethel and did so until his death in 2004.
time of his death, Herbert was still married to, but
estranged from, Gloria. Ethel remained on the property after
his death, paid taxes and insurance thereon, and made some
improvements thereto. Gloria, however, took no action with
regard to the property after Herbert's death until she
executed the quitclaim deed to Adrianne in 2014. She never
requested that the property be assessed in her name after
Herbert's death; she never paid the property taxes,
insurance, or utilities on the property; she never performed
any maintenance or repairs; and she never asked Ethel to
vacate the property.
current dispute arose in 2014 when Adrianne served Ethel with
a notice to vacate and intent to issue a writ of possession,
and Ethel refused to vacate the property. When Ethel refused,
Adrianne filed an action for unlawful detainer against Ethel.
Ethel denied the action, claiming to be the title owner to
the property. She also defended based on multiple theories
including adverse possession, statute of limitations, and the
theory of being a good-faith purchaser. Ethel additionally
filed a counterclaim seeking to quiet title alleging (1)
fee-simple ownership by exclusive possession under a claim of
right and payment of taxes since 1999; (2) adverse possession
since 1999; and (3) that Gloria had abandoned any homestead
rights or dower interest in the property by failing to assert
them within the applicable limitations period. Adrianne
responded by denying the counterclaim. The trial court
quieted title in the property to both Ethel and Adrianne as
tenants in common with equal shares to the property. All
other claims of the parties were denied and dismissed with
prejudice. Both sides appealed.
initial appeal, O'Neal v. Love, 2015 Ark.App.
689, 476 S.W.3d 846 (O'Neal I), we concluded
that Gloria and Herbert owned the property as tenants by the
entirety by virtue of the 1995 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 claims.
our decision in O'Neal I, the trial court on
remand found that Gloria became the sole owner of the
property upon Herbert's death based on the 1995 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 that of a bona
fide purchaser for value, not of an adverse possessor. The
court found that as a bona fide purchaser for value, Ethel
was the sole and exclusive owner of the property, quieted
title in her name, and denied her adverse-possession
appealed the trial court's order. In the second appeal,
O'Neal v. Love, 2017 Ark.App. 336, 523 S.W.3d
381 (O'Neal II), we again reversed the decision
of the trial court. We held that when Ethel obtained title to
the property by quitclaim deed in 1999, she only obtained
such interest as Herbert had in the property at the time of
the execution of the quitclaim deed. At that time, Herbert
owned the property with Gloria as tenants by the entirety.
Thus, when Herbert died in 2004, his interest (and therefore
Ethel's interest as a bona fide purchaser) in the