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Bass v. Bass

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

February 13, 2019

VICKY BASS (NOW HAYNES) APPELLANT
v.
BENTON NED BASS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26DR-07-1156] HONORABLE F. RUSSELL ROGERS, SPECIAL JUDGE

          Richard E. Worsham, for appellant.

          Legacy Law Group, by: Bryan J. Reis, Michelle Strause, and Philip B. Montgomery, for appellee.

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE

         This is an appeal from a divorce between Vicky Bass Haynes and Benton Ned Bass that has been pending since 2007. In this appeal, Vicky challenges several of the circuit court rulings. Additionally, we are called to address two motions Ned filed with our court-a motion to dismiss based on lack of finality and a motion for attorney's fees based on Vicky's alleged failure to comply with our briefing rules. Because we have determined that Ned's motion to dismiss must be granted, we dismiss this appeal without prejudice and deny the motion for attorney's fees.

         This case began on December 26, 2007, when Vicky filed a complaint for divorce against Ned. The divorce was highly contested, and for various reasons, a trial on the merits of the divorce was not held until September 2013.

         The circuit court entered a decree of divorce on January 24, 2014. The decree contained detailed findings on many of the contested issues in the divorce including, but not limited to, the disposition of some marital property and the division of some marital debt. Importantly, one of the provisions in the decree required Vicky to reimburse Ned for one-half of the debt service and related expenses he had paid on the marital property during the lengthy pendency of the divorce. Because the amount of the debt service and related expenses paid by Ned, and therefore the amount of reimbursement owed by Vicky, was complicated and disputed, the circuit court appointed CPA Marla Lammers in another provision of the divorce decree as a receiver to determine and verify these amounts. Specifically, paragraph 7 of the decree orders CPA Lammers to prepare and submit a report to the court "to accurately establish the debt service, insurance, taxes and maintenance paid by the defendant while this divorce has been pending[.] . . . The court shall receive and approve the report of the receiver, whereupon the defendant shall receive reimbursement for one half[.]" However, before CPA Lammers submitted her report, Vicky filed a notice of appeal. Our court subsequently dismissed the appeal without prejudice in February 2015, due to lack of a final order.

         After the case was remanded to the circuit court, CPA Lammers compiled her report and submitted it to the court on May 20, 2015. On June 16, 2015, the circuit court distributed copies of CPA Lammers's report to the parties and instructed them that they had ten days to submit any objections. Vicky disagreed with CPA Lammers's report, and on June 26, 2015, Vicky filed an objection. On August 12, 2015, Vicky filed a motion for new trial or, in the alternative, motion to amend the court's findings of fact, seeking relief from the divorce decree that was entered on January 24, 2014.

         Ultimately, on January 27, 2017, the circuit court entered an order that, inter alia, discussed the amount Vicky owed Ned for reimbursement of the debt service and related expenses he made on the marital property during the pendency of the divorce. The circuit court relied heavily on CPA Lammers's report in reaching its calculation of the amount Vicky owed. However, despite the details contained in CPA Lammers's report, there remained unanswered questions concerning the amount of the marital debt, the source of the payments, and the amount of Vicky's responsibility for reimbursing Ned. To further assist the court in making a final determination, the circuit court ordered CPA Lammers to amend her report as follows:

7. The Special Master, [1] Marla Lammers, is hereby ordered to amend her Report to include revenue for NV International Investments, Inc., Winston Cup and Bass Management, Inc. during the accounting period as shown by the tax returns and K1's. In addition, the Special Master is hereby ordered to amend her report to identify any instance when an expense was paid by NV International Investments, Inc., Winston Cup or Bass Management, Inc. with a brief explanation, including what was paid, the amount and entity which has paid the expense.

         Several pending motions were also disposed of in this order including, but not limited to, denying Vicky's motion to strike the special master's report, motion to disqualify the special master, and motion for new trial.

         Instead of waiting for CPA Marla Lammers to amend her report as ordered by the court, Vicky filed another notice of appeal. One of Vicky's arguments in her brief on appeal in support of reversal is that the amount the circuit court ordered her to reimburse Ned for his expenses servicing the marital debt amounted to reversible error.

         After the appeal was lodged with our court, Ned filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that our court is without jurisdiction to decide the merits of Vicky's appeal because the circuit court's orders are not final. He also filed a motion for attorney's fees based on Vicky's alleged noncompliance with Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 4-2.

         We begin our analysis by considering Ned's motion to dismiss and acknowledge that this motion was originally presented to our court for a determination at a motion conference, and our court passed the motion to the panel. After a thorough review of the entire record by the panel, ...


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