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Fleming v. Tanner

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

December 10, 2019

Hayden R. FLEMING, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellants/Cross-Appellees,
v.
Glen TANNER, Defendant/Appellee/Cross-Appellant, Jessica Tanner, Defendant/Appellee.

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          Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County; No. CV2015-007971; The Honorable Lori Horn Bustamante, Judge. AFFIRMED IN PART, VACATED IN PART

          Stein and Stein, PC, Mesa, By Henry M. Stein, Amy R. Wilson, Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants/Cross-Appellees

          Joshua Carden Law Firm, PC, Scottsdale, By Joshua W. Carden, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee/Cross-Appellant

          Richter Law, PLLC, Scottsdale, By Shawn Richter, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee

         Judge Kent E. Cattani delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Acting Presiding Judge Paul J. McMurdie and Judge Samuel A. Thumma joined.

          OPINION

         CATTANI, Judge:

         [¶1] This case involves a disagreement over an $800,000 loan by Hayden R. and LaDonna M. Fleming to their daughter Jessica Tanner and her then-husband, Glen Tanner.[1] The Flemings settled their dispute with their daughter but pursued this breach of contract case against Glen. The Flemings sought damages of $50,000 in principal and $184,721.92 in accumulated interest, plus attorney’s fees and costs.

         [¶2] Following a bench trial, the superior court awarded the Flemings $50,000, but denied their claim for interest and their request for attorney’s fees. The Flemings appeal from that ruling. Glen cross-appeals, challenging the $50,000 award as well as the superior court’s rejection of his statute of limitations defense and his counterclaim seeking an offset for the amount Jessica paid on the loan. We conclude that the superior court correctly denied the Flemings’ claim for interest because the original oral agreement between the Flemings and the Tanners contemplated no interest at all. As to Glen’s cross-appeal, we vacate the award of $50,000 payable by Glen to the Flemings because Jessica already paid enough to satisfy the debt in full. We affirm in all other respects.

          FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         [¶3] In May 2007, the Flemings agreed to loan the Tanners $800,000 to assist them with the purchase of a home in Maricopa County. The agreement was not in writing, and there was no discussion of interest on the loan or a specified repayment schedule. The Tanners agreed to repay the loan at some point in the future, and the parties agreed that the loan would be due and payable upon demand by the Flemings.

         [¶4] The Tanners made three payments to the Flemings totaling $340,000 between November 2008 and May 2011, sometimes in response to the Flemings’ request for partial repayment. In May 2009, Glen transferred title to another property (the "Terravita House") to the Flemings, subject to a deed of trust and $360,000 promissory note. When the Flemings sold the Terravita House in 2013, Glen released the deed of trust and the Flemings credited a $360,000 payment on the loan. All told, the Flemings credited the Tanners with having paid a total of $700,000.

         [¶5] In July 2015, the Flemings sued both Glen and Jessica (who by then were divorced), seeking the remaining principal balance of $100,000 and 10% interest for the life of the loan.[2] In June 2016, the Flemings and Jessica entered a written settlement agreement, with Jessica agreeing to pay, as relevant here, what they characterized as $50,000.00 in principal and $110,567.76 in interest on the loan. The Flemings and Jessica subsequently signed a written addendum, amending their settlement agreement to provide that if the court were to conclude that interest was not awardable on the loan, the

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Flemings would refund the interest portion of the settlement ...


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