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Arrowhead Acceptance Corp. v. Mo. Dep't of Soc. Servs.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

September 30, 2014

ARROWHEAD ACCEPTANCE CORPORATION, Respondent,
v.
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Appellant

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI. The Honorable Marco A. Roldan, Judge.

Before Division One: Gary D. Witt, Presiding, Judge, Joseph M. Ellis, Judge and Thomas H. Newton, Judge. All concur.

OPINION

Joseph M. Ellis, Judge

Page 467

The Department of Social Services (" the Department" ) appeals from a judgment entered by the Circuit Court of Jackson County ordering the Department to pay garnished funds in the amount of $5,769.92 into the court registry. The judgment further orders that such funds be paid to Respondent Arrowhead Acceptance Corporation. For the following reasons, the judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

In 2009, Respondent filed a petition against Lavinia Bryer (" Defendant" ) in the Circuit Court of Jackson County. The trial court subsequently entered a default judgment in favor of Respondent for $4,014.02 plus costs and interest. In order to satisfy the judgment, Respondent sought to garnish Defendant's wages. Thus, Respondent applied for and obtained a writ of garnishment against Defendant's employer, Rean Johnson d/b/a Granny's Pray and Play Child Care Center.

After Johnson failed to garnish Defendant's wages, Respondent sought a judgment against Johnson. On July 22, 2010, the trial court entered a default judgment against Johnson for $4,105.02 plus court costs.

In 2013, Respondent sought to satisfy the judgment against Johnson by applying for a writ of garnishment against the Department. At the time, the Department had entered into an agreement with Johnson d/b/a Granny's Pray and Play Child Care Center in which the Department agreed to pay Johnson for providing child care services to children eligible for state assistance. The garnishment application/order indicates that Respondent requested garnishment of Johnson's " wages" and that the Department should attach all " payments" due to Johnson.

On July 15, 2013, the Department filed a motion to quash the writ of garnishment. In its motion, the Department asserted that the writ must be quashed because garnishment against the State is barred by sovereign immunity. Respondent opposed the motion, averring that the Department waived its sovereign immunity to garnishment pursuant to § 525.310.[1]

On September 3, 2013, the trial court entered an order overruling the Department's motion to quash garnishment. In doing so, the trial court found that " the interests of justice would best be served by denying the motion" because Johnson " is in essence an employee of the state whose salary, earnings, fees and wages are subject to garnishment pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. § 525.310."

In November 2013, the Department answered the garnishee interrogatories attached to the writ of garnishment. In doing so, the Department maintained that it was immune from garnishment and that Johnson had never been an employee of the Department. Respondent then filed a motion to compel payment of the garnished funds into the court registry. The Department did not oppose the court ordering the funds be paid into the court registry; however, it requested that the court stay distribution of those funds to Respondent until the matter could be reviewed by this Court.

On December 5, 2013, the trial court sustained Respondent's motion to compel payment of the funds into the court registry and ordered those funds be paid to Respondent. The Department filed a motion to reconsider in which it contended that, pursuant to Rule 90.10(b) and § 525.190, it was entitled to a trial on the

Page 468

matter of whether Johnson is an employee of the Department. Alternatively, the Department requested that the trial court denote its ...


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