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Fudge v. Parks

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

April 3, 2019

PATRICIA FUDGE APPELLANT
v.
EDDIE PARKS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE BAXTER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 03CV-16-278] HONORABLE GORDON WEBB, JUDGE

          Jeremy B. Lowrey, for appellant.

          John Atkins Crain, for appellee.

          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, JUDGE.

         This appeal arises out of a dispute over the dissolution of a partnership between the appellant, Patricia Fudge, and the appellee, Eddie Parks. Fudge, in essence, claimed that Parks failed to properly account for partnership assets, misappropriated partnership funds and assets, breached his fiduciary duties, and improperly kept the proceeds from the sale of her personal vehicle. The Baxter County Circuit Court entered an order granting Fudge a judgment against Parks for the sale of her vehicle but denying Fudge relief on all other claims. On direct appeal, Fudge appeals the amount of damages awarded by the court as well as the court's denial of her other claims. On cross-appeal, Parks appeals the judgment entered against him. We affirm on both direct and cross-appeal.

         In 2006, the parties entered into a partnership agreement for a cattle operation. Fudge was to contribute financially to the venture, while Parks, who was familiar with cattle farming, was to manage the operation. The relationship ultimately soured, and in 2015, the partnership was dissolved. Both Fudge and Parks signed a dissolution agreement that stated that the agreement constituted a "full and complete settlement of all issues, rights, claims or demands that each has against the other concerning the partnership known as 2 Bar P Farms" and that each party would completely release each other from "any claim, demand or liability derived from the operation of 2 Bar P Farms."

         Despite signing the dissolution agreement, Fudge filed a complaint against Parks in the Baxter County Circuit Court[1] alleging that Parks had fraudulently concealed some of the assets of the partnership prior to the signing of the dissolution agreement and that she had discovered his misappropriation of partnership property and assets after the dissolution agreement had been executed. She requested a reimbursement of at least $15, 000. She further alleged that Parks had prevented the return of several items of her personal property[2] and had sold her vintage 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle without her knowledge. She requested the return of those items as well as damages for the value of the car she alleged was worth $38, 000. Finally, she requested reimbursement for the out-of- pocket expenses she incurred in conducting the investigation into Parks's fraudulent actions and misdeeds and her costs and attorney's fees.

         Parks answered the complaint, denying the allegations. He further asserted that Fudge's claims were barred by the dissolution agreement, that her claims were frivolous and brought for the purposes of harassment, and that he was entitled to attorney's fees and costs.

         Fudge subsequently amended her complaint to include allegations that Parks had received funds from the 2012 Livestock Forage Disaster Program and the 2012 Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program that she maintained should have been paid to the partnership. As to this claim, she requested $11, 380 in compensatory damages and $25, 000 in punitive damages.

         Parks again answered the complaint, denying the allegations and alleging that her claims were barred by the dissolution agreement.

         The circuit court conducted a bench trial at which both Fudge and Parks presented their evidence. The evidence focused on four areas of disagreement: (1) disputed checks made on the partnership account; (2) the receipt of USDA funds; (3) the sale of cattle at dissolution; and (4) the sale of the 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle. After the hearing, the trial court entered an order denying Fudge's claims with respect to the disputed checks but granting her claim as to the sale of the Chevelle. On that claim, the court ordered Parks to pay Fudge $16, 000. An amended order resolved the remaining issues by denying Fudge's claims as to the USDA funds and her claims of fraud and punitive damages. She appeals the trial court's denial of her claims, and Parks cross-appeals the judgment entered against him.

         I. Standard of Review

         Generally stated, our standard of review following a bench trial is whether the trial court's findings are clearly erroneous or clearly against the preponderance of the evidence. Bohannon v. Robinson, 2014 Ark. 458, 447 S.W.3d 585. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made. Id. Disputed facts and determinations of the credibility of witnesses are within the province of the fact-finder. Id.

         II. Issues and ...


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