It’s been a long haul for Ralph Bradbury.
After more than a decade of waiting, he can move forward with his lawsuit against the former owners of the defunct Continental Express Inc. of Little Rock, Ed and Bonnie Harvey and the couple’s financial adviser, Marvin Jones.
On Nov. 9, the Arkansas Court of Appeals tossed the ruling of summary judgment against Bradbury from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Patricia James. The Court of Appeals remanded the case back to Pulaski County Circuit Court.
The legal mess started in 2010 when the IRS gave Bradbury, who was president of the trucking company, an $800,000 bill for the company’s back taxes. The IRS said that since Bradbury was a “responsible person” he had to pay it. Bradbury maintained that the tax bill should have gone to the Harveys and Jones because they were the ones who controlled the company during the period that the taxes were owed.
In 2011, Bradbury sued the Harveys and Jones in Pulaski County Circuit Court. Bradbury’s allegations included breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud. His damages included the amount of the company’s taxes that he was assessed.
Bradbury also sued the federal government in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, challenging the tax he owed.
The state court case was put on hold while the federal court dispute proceeded.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. ruled against Bradbury and said that he was responsible for paying the taxes.
Bradbury’s attorney, Randy Coleman, who is of counsel at Jack Nelson Jones of Little Rock, told Arkansas Business that the Bradbury case eventually made its way to U.S. Tax Court and the parties reached an out-of-court settlement for the amount of taxes owed.
With the federal case behind Bradbury, his filing in Pulaski County Circuit Court could move forward.
The Harveys and Jones filed a motion for summary judgment. Jones “argued that Bradbury was attempting to relitigate the same issue that the federal court decided — namely, his responsibility for payment of the federal taxes and related fallout,” according to the Court of Appeals’ 10-page opinion from Chief Judge Brandon Harrison.
Bradbury said in his court filings that while he was found to be “a responsible person,” he was not found to be “the responsible person” for the tax penalty, the opinion said. Bradbury said his case against the defendants should move forward.
But James, the circuit court judge, agreed with the Harveys and Jones and dismissed the case in 2015.
In the meantime, Ed Harvey died on June 5, 2017, and Bonnie Harvey was appointed as special administrator to represent him in the litigation.
Bradbury appealed to the state Court of Appeals, and after delays tied to waiting for a final order to be in place, the appeal proceeded in October 2021.
“Bradbury contends that he did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issues he has raised in circuit court in the prior federal proceeding,” the opinion said.
The Court of Appeals agreed with Bradbury.
“The claims presented in his complaint involve state-law remedies and were not litigated in the federal-court proceeding,” the opinion said.
The case was reversed and remanded.
Attorney David Donovan of Watts Donovan Tilley & Carson of Little Rock represented Jones and didn’t return a call for comment.
R. Ken McCulloch of the Barber Law Firm of Little Rock represented the Harveys and also didn’t return a call for comment.
Bradbury’s daughter, Rachel Pitre, is a publisher at Arkansas Business Publishing Group, the company that publishes Arkansas Business.