MARY C. PETTY FAMILY TRUST; David Petty, Trustee; and Mary C. Petty, Individually and as Trustee, Appellants
Robert LOUTON, Appellee
FROM THE HOT SPRING COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 30CV-15-194],
HONORABLE CHRIS E WILLIAMS, JUDGE
Law Office, Hot Springs, by: Joseph Churchwell, for
Law Firm, P.A., Malvern, by: Cecilia Ashcraft and G.
Christopher Walthall, for appellee.
J. HARRISON, Judge
parties have resolved the finality issues that we raised in a
prior opinion, so this appeals merit may now be decided.
2017, a jury awarded Robert Louton a $25,000 judgment against
David Petty, individually, and as trustee of the Mary C.
Petty Family Trust. David argues here that the circuit court
erred when it declined to direct a verdict in his favor and
let the jury decide whether he had committed the torts of
outrage and abuse of process. We affirm the $25,000
judgment— which consists of $5,000 in compensatory
damages and $20,000 in punitive damages. David Petty, either
individually or as a trustee, must pay Robert Louton the
money because substantial evidence supports the judgment.
explain why substantial evidence, which is evidence of
sufficient force and character to compel a conclusion one way
or another with reasonable certainty, supports the jury
verdict and the courts resulting judgment. Conagra, Inc.
v. Strother, 340 Ark. 672, 13 S.W.3d 150 (2000)
(standard of review).
The Outrage Claim
contends that Robert failed to make a prima facie case on his
outrage claim; therefore, the claim should not have been
given to the jury to decide. To establish outrage, a
plaintiff must establish four elements: (1) the defendant
intended to inflict emotional distress or should have
recognized emotional distress as a likely result of his
conduct; (2) the defendants conduct was extreme, outrageous,
and utterly intolerable in a civilized community; (3) the
defendants actions caused anguish or distress to the
plaintiff; and (4) the emotional distress suffered was severe
and of a type that no reasonable person should be expected to
endure. Calvary Christian Sch., Inc. v.
Huffstuttler, 367 Ark. 117, 238 S.W.3d 58 (2006). As
with his motion for a directed verdict in the circuit court,
David argues on appeal that Robert did not sufficiently prove
that Davids conduct was outrageous, that Roberts emotional
distress was severe enough, and that the conduct complained
of was the sort that a reasonable person cannot be expected
background is needed to better understand our summary of the
trial testimony. Robert Louton is married to David Pettys
sister, Deandra Petty Louton. When the trial convened the
Loutons lived in a double-wide trailer home close to a road.
David lived in a house perched on a
hill behind the Loutons. A fence separated the two homes.
David must drive past the Loutons home to reach his place.
Mark Petty, who is David and Deandras brother, also lives on
the land. David, Robert, Deanna, and Mark had lived on the
property for thirty years or more when the events that caused
this litigation occurred. The circuit court later determined
that the land on which all the family members were living at
the time of trial is owned by David and Deandras mother,
Mary (a/k/a Cathy) Petty, directly or indirectly through her
trust. In other words, neither David nor the Loutons owned
the land. David, however, is the "acting trustee"
of his mothers trust.
Regarding the trial testimony, the jury heard about several
incidents between the brothers-in-law (David and Robert) that
support the outrage claim. For example, David plowed the yard
around the Loutons home in such a manner that Deandras
parked vehicle could not be moved. David claimed it was for a
"bigger corn patch" for his mother. Before and
after photos were shown to the jury, and they reasonably
support an inference that the plowing around Deandras SUV
was not for gardening. In ...