Mark Rezanka v. Tena Rezanka

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CA 05-298

September 28, 2005


[NO. DR-2004-96-2]




Terry Crabtree, Judge

In this divorce case, appellant Mark Rezanka appeals the trial court's apportionment of his marital interest in two corporate entities, General Land & Title, LLC (GLT), and HTR Investments, LLC (HTR). Raising four issues, he contends that the trial court erred by omitting $9,670 in the bank account of HTR in determining its value; that the trial court erred in finding that the majority of the value of GLT was due to personal goodwill attributable to Helen Robus; that the trial court erred in its calculation of the personal property of GLT; and that the trial court erred in its determination of the value of GLT. Because this appeal is taken from an order that is not final, we dismiss.

The parties in this case were divorced by a decree entered on October 11, 2004. Most of the property issues were resolved at that time, but appellant's interest in GLT and HRT remained in dispute. GLT is a title company. HTR is a corporation that was formed for the purpose of owning the land and building where GLT is located. Appellee Tena Rezanka owns fifty percent of each corporation. Her mother, Helen Robus, owns the other fifty percent of the corporations. After a hearing, in an order dated December 7, 2004, the trial court fixed the value of GLT at $97,000 and ruled that appellant's interest in the corporation was twenty-five percent of that amount, or $24,375. With respect to HTR, the court stated:

The [Appellant] is entitled to twenty-five percent (25%) of the equity in HTR. Randy Minton of Cabot, Arkansas, has been hired to appraise the land and building owned by HTR by agreement of the parties. After arriving at the appraised value of the land and building, the total debt on the land and building shall be subtracted from the appraised value and the [Appellee] shall pay the [Appellant] twenty-five percent of said amount.

Appellant filed a notice of appeal from this order on January 5, 2005.

Rule 2(a)(1) of the Rules of Appellate Procedure - Civil limits this court's appellate review to final orders in order to avoid piecemeal litigation. Ford v. Ford, 347 Ark. 485, 65 S.W.3d 432 (2002). Whether an order is final and appealable is a matter going to the jurisdiction of the appellate court and is an issue that we have a duty to raise on our own motion. Barnes v. Newton, 69 Ark. App. 115, 10 S.W.3d 472 (2000). For a judgment to be final, it must dismiss the parties from the court, discharge them from the action, or conclude their rights to the subject matter in controversy. Roberts v. Roberts, 70 Ark. App. 94, 14 S.W.3d 529 (2000). Thus, the order must put the trial court's directive into execution, ending the litigation or a separable branch of it. Id. The amount of a final judgment must be computed, as near as may be, in dollars and cents, so as to be enforced by execution or in some other appropriate manner. Morton v. Morton, 61 Ark. App. 161, 965 S.W.2d 809 (1998). Where the order appealed from reflects that further proceedings are pending which do not involve merely collateral matters, the order is not final. Id. Rule 54(b) of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure does provide a way to obtain a final order on fewer than all the claims or all the parties; however, the rule requires the party to move the trial court for an express determination, supported by specific factual findings, that there was no just reason for delay, and for express direction for entry of judgment on the matter to be appealed. Farrell v. Farrell, ___ Ark. ___, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Sept. 27, 2004). Our courts recognize that Rule 54(b) is applicable to property division issues in divorce cases. Id.; Morton v. Morton, supra.

In this case, the trial court's valuation of HTR was to be determined based on a yet-to-be-conducted appraisal from which an unstated amount of debt was to be subtracted. The circumstances of this case bear some resemblance to those in Hartwick v. Hill, 77 Ark. App. 185, 73 S.W.3d 15 (2002). There, the trial court determined that the compensation due a landowner for a roadway established across his property would be $6,000 an acre with the precise acreage to be determined by a survey that was to be completed at a later date. Characterizing the completion of the survey as a collateral and ministerial act, we concluded that the order was sufficiently final for purposes of appeal. In Villines v. Harris, ___ Ark. ___, ___ S.W.3d ___ (May 19, 2005), Hartwick was cited for the proposition that setting out a formula or other specifics of the amount of damages is a final appealable order. The supreme court rejected that assertion as a correct statement of the law and overruled the decision in Hartwick.

Based on the standards governing finality and the decision in Villines v. Harris, we conclude that the order from which this appeal has been taken is not final because the trial court's assessment of the value of HTR has yet to be calculated. Although the trial court has arrived at a formula for valuing the corporation, the factors to be used in the formula have not been determined. No appraisal has been conducted, and the trial court made no specific finding as to the amount of the corporate debt that was to be deducted from the value of the property. We also note that there is no indication from the record that either the parties or the trial court were bound to accept the appraiser's conclusion as to the property's value. Since potential for dispute remains, deciding this appeal would thwart the goal of avoiding piecemeal litigation. Therefore, we dismiss the appeal.


Robbins and Griffen, JJ., agree.