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Nash v. Nash

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

March 13, 2019

Jim R. NASH, Appellant
v.
Norma NASH, Individually and as Trustee of the Norma F. Nash Living Trust; John Nash, Jr., Individually and for Norma Nash, Deceased, as Cotrustee of the Norma F. Nash Living Trust, and as Co-Administrator of the Norma Nash Estate; Pam Nash Glover, Individually and for Norma Nash, Deceased, as Cotrustee of the Norma F. Nash Living Trust, and as Co-Administrator of the Norma Nash Estate; Susan Nash Lyle, Individually and for Norma Nash, Deceased; Perry Nash, Individually and for Norma Nash, Deceased; and Gaylen McClanahan, Appellees

          Rehearing Denied April 17, 2019

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          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND DIVISION [NO. 60CV-15-1789], HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE

          Jim R. Nash, pro se appellant.

         Ed Daniel IV, P.A., Little Rock, by: Ed Daniel IV, LLM CPA, for appellees.

         OPINION

         MIKE MURPHY, Judge

          Jim Nash, a licensed attorney appearing pro se, appeals from a jury’s defense verdict on his claims for breach of contract, specific performance, and tortious interference with a business expectancy. Appellant argues six points for reversal, but his primary contention is that there was no compliance with Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 25 following the death of the original defendant.[1] We affirm.

          Appellant performed legal services for his brother, John R. Nash, Sr., for many years. These services included representation in administrative and regulatory matters and in the sale of a convenience store and a warehouse, as well as attempts to sell a liquor store owned by John R. Nash, Sr. According to appellant, he had an oral agreement with his brother to provide legal services on an as-needed basis and a "pay when you can" basis. After John R. Nash, Sr., died in April 2012, his widow, Norma Nash, informed appellant that his services were no longer required. A small estate proceeding was opened for John R. Nash, Sr., and appellant filed a claim against his estate for unpaid legal work.

          Appellant subsequently sued Norma in April 2015 both individually and as trustee of the Norma Nash Living Trust (the trust). Appellant alleged in his complaint a breach-of-contract claim that Norma was transferring almost all her assets, including the liquor store, to the trust as a fraudulent transfer to defeat any claims against her husband’s estate. The complaint also asserted claims for specific performance and tortious interference with a business expectancy. A discovery dispute arose, and appellant filed a motion to compel and a request for sanctions. However, Norma died on February 28, 2016.

          A notice of suggestion of death was filed on March 22, 2016. Appellant filed a motion asking the circuit court to appoint both John R. Nash, Jr., (Nash Jr.) and Pam Glover as special administrators to represent Norma’s estate and her trust.[2] The trust responded to the motion, asserting that no probate proceedings had been opened and that no one had been appointed to succeed Norma. On May 18, 2016, the circuit court entered an order holding appellant’s motions to compel and for sanctions in abeyance and directing appellant to file a substituted complaint to "include the proper parties to substitute for Defendant Norma Nash, now deceased, and any other proper parties to this action[.]"[3] The

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order also stated that the amended complaint to be filed would satisfy the requirements of Rule 25 and other statutory requirements for revivor and substitution of parties.

         Appellant filed an amended complaint on May 27. The complaint named as defendants Nash Jr. and Glover, individually and as cotrustees of the trust and as coadministrators of Norma’s estate. Norma was still listed in the complaint both individually and as trustee. The complaint incorporated the allegations contained in the original complaint and asserted four causes of action— breach of contract, imposition of a constructive trust, and two counts alleging interference with a contract and business expectancy.[4]

         On June 24, Nash Jr. and Glover answered the amended complaint. They denied that any personal representatives or special administrators had been appointed for Norma’s estate. On July 26, the circuit court entered an order prepared by the attorney for Nash Jr. and Glover dismissing appellant’s claims against Norma in her individual capacity because no substitution had been entered within ninety days of the suggestion of death as required by Arkansas Code Annotated section 28-50-102 (Repl. 2012).

         On August 2, appellant filed a motion to vacate the dismissal order. He alleged that the dismissal was made without a dismissal motion having been filed. He also recited that no probate proceedings had been initiated for Norma’s estate.[5]

          Appellant filed an amended and supplemental complaint on September 9. Nash Jr. and Glover answered individually and as cotrustees of Norma’s trust. However, they specifically denied that a special administrator had been appointed for Norma’s estate.

          On February 27, 2017, appellant filed another amended complaint keeping the same parties named as in the first amended complaint and adding Lyle and Perry as defendants "for Norma Nash, deceased."

          A two-day jury trial was held on June 7 and 8, 2017. The jury returned verdicts in favor of "Defendants, Norma Nash and her substitutes and heirs" on the issues of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and interference with business expectancy.

          Before entry of the judgment in favor of the defendants, appellant filed a motion for new trial. The judgment was entered on June 22. Appellant filed his notice of appeal on July 21. When the circuit court did not rule on appellant’s motion for new trial within thirty days, he ...


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