The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a decision by Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt Jr., to award a Pine Bluff company money in a civil lawsuit filed against another company.
Anderson Electric filed a complaint against Wesleyan Corp., in October, 2009, seeking a judgment on an unpaid contract relating to electrical work the company did in 2008.
Wesleyan filed an answer to the complaint through an attorney in February, 2010, but that attorney withdrew 10 months later, and Wesleyan did not hire another attorney.
Fourteen months later, in February 2012, Wyatt set a one-day bench trial for March 21.
Three weeks before the trial, Wesleyan asked for a continuance, saying that it had not received the file from its previous attorney, needed to hire a new attorney, and needed more information from Anderson Electric. That motion was filed by William “Bill” W. Ruth, the registered agent for Wesleyan.
Two days later, Wyatt signed an order requiring a licensed attorney to file an entry of appearance for Wesleyan on March 1, or a default judgment would be entered. Ruth was a licensed attorney in Texas, but not in Arkansas, according to court documents.
On March 1, Daniel Pilkington entered his appearance as attorney for Wesleyan and a day later, asked for a delay to familiarize himself with the case. He requested a second delay on March 2, and Wyatt denied both requests.
At the bench trial, a witness that Pilkington said was necessary was not present, and Pilkington said the witness had not been subpoenaed. Additionally, Ruth was not present because of what Pilkington said were legal matters in Texas, and because Ruth’s wife had an outpatient surgical procedure. Pilkington also said he had not received information from Anderson Electric because Wesleyan did not request it in a timely manner.
Because of those factors, Pilkington again asked for a delay, but Wyatt denied that request, which the Appeals Court said did not abuse Wyatt’s discretion.
Wesleyan also contended that Wyatt’s awarding of a $16,123.39 judgment to Anderson Electric was in error, a contention the Appeals Court also rejected.
At the bench trial, Darryl Anderson, owner of Anderson Electric, testified and provided invoices showing that the amount of the judgment represented the amount Wesleyan still owed for work the company had performed.
After the trial, Wyatt awarded Wesleyan to pay Anderson Electric the balance it was owed, as well as $250 court costs and $3,500 to the attorney for Anderson.
Wesleyan contested the attorney fees but the Appeals Court said there was no mention of the fees or costs when Wesleyan asked for a second trial, a request Wyatt denied.