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Peck v. Peck

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

April 3, 2019

Alison Ashley PECK, as a Qualified Beneficiary of the Peck Family Trust and the Peck Marital Trust, and in Her Individual Capacity, Appellant
v.
Hannah PECK a/k/a Hannah Finley, Individually and as Trustee of the Peck Family Trust U/D June 14, 2001, and the Peck Marital Trust, Appellee

Page 138

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH DIVISION [NO. 60CV-14-1883], HONORABLE TIMOTHY DAVIS FOX, JUDGE

         Eichenbaum Liles, P.A., Little Rock, by: Joshua Allen and Christopher O. Parker, for appellant.

         Richard F. Hatfield, P.A., by: Richard F. Hatfield, Little Rock, for appellee.

          OPINION

         PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge

          Alison Peck appeals the order of the Pulaski County Circuit Court that granted partial summary judgment and dismissed in part Peck’s amended complaint against appellee Hannah Peck Finley on the basis of the statute of limitations. At Peck’s

Page 139

request, the circuit court certified the order as a final judgment pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). We reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

          I. Procedural History

         Peck is the daughter of the late Robert Peck. Finley is Robert Peck’s widow. After Robert’s death, a series of lawsuits developed between Finley, Peck, Capi Peterson, and Ashley O’Dell over Robert’s estate plan.[1] We have heard two previous appeals resulting from the litigation between Peterson and O’Dell and Finley. See Peterson v. Peck, 2013 Ark.App. 666, 430 S.W.3d 797; O’Dell v. Peck, 2017 Ark.App. 532, 2017 WL 4663919. The instant appeal returns to us a second time after a previous reversal and remand. See Peck v. Peck, 2016 Ark.App. 423, 502 S.W.3d 553 (Peck I ).

          In our previous opinions, we set forth in detail the facts of the disputes between Robert’s daughters and his widow. For purposes of this opinion, we will not repeat the facts in detail but provide the following summary. Robert Peck created a trust naming Finley as trustee and primary beneficiary (the Peck Family Trust). Robert named his daughters as contingent beneficiaries within the trust. The heart of the dispute between the sisters and Finley has been how Robert funded the trust. Robert possessed a piece of artwork created by Alexander Calder (the Calder). Finley believed that Robert funded the trust with the Calder. As trustee, she sold the Calder and invested the proceeds. Her investments were not profitable and lost money. In 2008, she filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment to determine the ownership of the Calder. Peck was a defendant in this lawsuit. She denied Finley’s assertions that the trust owned the Calder and asserted that the owner of the Calder was her sister, Peterson. Peck also filed a counterclaim requesting an accounting and asserting that Finley breached her fiduciary duties. Both actions— the declaratory judgment and the counterclaim— were dismissed without prejudice in 2009.

         In October 2010, Peterson filed suit against Finley, alleging that she (Peterson) was the owner of the Calder, that Finley wrongfully sold it to a third party, and that Finley was liable to Peterson for the value of the Calder and damages for its sale.[2] Peterson also sought an accounting for the Peck Family Trust and alleged that Finley acted in bad faith. Finley denied Peterson’s allegation and contended that Peterson’s actions triggered a share-cancellation clause within the trust that resulted in a forfeiture of Peterson’s beneficiary status under the trust. Following a bench trial, the circuit court ruled that Peterson had failed to prove that she was the owner of the Calder. The court also ruled that Peterson failed to prove that Finley had acted in bad faith, that the trust’s share-cancellation clause was thereby triggered, and that Peterson was thus excluded as a beneficiary. We affirmed. Peterson, supra.

         In May 2014,[3] Peck sued Finley, seeking a declaratory judgment of Finley’s duties as trustee and of her own rights as a beneficiary to be kept promptly informed of all material information regarding administration of the trust. She asserted that Finley ...


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