Steve ARMAN, Special Administrator of the Estate of Philip Lewis Arman, Deceased, Appellant
CHI ST. VINCENT HOT SPRINGS d/b/a St. Vincent Hospital Hot Springs; Chi St. Vincent Hospital Hot Springs d/b/a St. Vincent Hospital Hot Springs; and First Initiatives Insurance Ltd., Appellees
FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26CV-16-449],
HONORABLE LYNN WILLIAMS, JUDGE
Cearley Law Firm, P.A., by: Robert M. Cearly, Jr., for
Lindsey & Jennings LLP, Little Rock, by: Edwin L. Lowther,
Jr., Gary D. Marts, Jr., and David C. Jung, for appellees.
J. HARRISON, Judge
Arman, acting as the special administrator of the estate of
his father, Philip Lewis Arman, appeals the Garland County
Circuit Courts dismissal of his tort complaint against
defendants Chi St. Vincent Hot Springs and Chi St. Vincent
Hospital Hot Springs (collectively St. Vincent). He claims
that he was properly clothed with the authority to file the
tort complaint when he did so and that the circuit court
erred by concluding otherwise. We reverse the dismissal,
reinstate the complaint, and remand for further proceedings.
Arman died testate in May 2014, and his will was probated in
Garland County. The docket number the circuit court clerk
assigned to the estate was PR-14-486. The sole devisee under
the probated will was the Philip L. Arman Trust. On 22 April
2015, the Garland County Circuit Court (Probate Division,
Division 1) entered a final order of distribution.
See Ark. Code Ann. § 28-53-104 (Repl. 2012). That
order discharged the responsibilities of the estates
personal representative, who was Community First Trust
Company. Community First Trust Company also served as trustee
of the Philip L. Arman Trust. No party disputes that the
April 22 order closed the estate. No one appealed the order.
Consequently, the April 22 order judicially concluded matters
related to Philip Armans estate unless someone established a
need to reopen the final order of distribution. Ark. Code
Ann. § 28-53-105(a) (Repl. 2012).
one year had passed, Steve Arman filed (on 12 May 2016) a
petition to appoint a special administrator. The petition
mistakenly stated that "no estate had been filed ... in
relation to the decedent." The circuit court entered an
order appointing Steve as special administrator the same day
the petition was filed. The clerk assigned the petition case
number PR-16-295 (Probate Division, Division 1). The cover
sheet was filed on 11 May 2016 and had the box
"original" checked-marked. The "Re-open"
box, another option on the cover sheet, was not checked.
days later, Steve filed an amended petition to have a special
administrator appointed. In the amended petition, he offered
the correction that "a Probate action was previously
filed in this court as Case No. 26PR-14-486-1, and an Estate
was opened and closed without liquidating the survival and
wrongful death claims."
The corrective May 18 amended petition asked the circuit
court to appoint Steve as special administrator pursuant to §
28-53-119 (Repl. 2012), which governs the reopening of
estates. That same day, the circuit court
entered an amended order appointing Steve as special
administrator to "perform all necessary duties and acts
required to liquidate the contingent claim of the Estate and
statutory wrongful death beneficiaries[.]" The amended
order also states that "no estate has been opened"
[t]he Court finds that The Special Administrators basis for
requesting appointment is that a previous probate action was
opened and closed without liquidating the survival and
wrongful death claims of the Estate and its statutory
beneficiaries. An immediate need exists for the appointment
of a special [administrator] for the reasons stated in the
crux of this appeal is whether Steve had the legal authority
to commence a tort action in the civil division of the
circuit court on behalf of Philip Armans estate and for the
benefit of the beneficiaries in the wrongful-death statute.
St. Vincent has argued before, and does so here again, that
Steve lacked authority to file the tort complaint because the
May 18 amended order in the probate division did not properly
reopen his fathers probated estate, which had to be done
before Steve could file the tort complaint in the civil
division on May 19. Therefore, argues St. Vincent, the
circuit court correctly dismissed the tort complaint. And the
dismissal with prejudice was correct, St. Vincent