Burns v. City of Tucson – 11/23/2018

December 7, 2018

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two holds that Arizona’s relocation-assistance statutes do not provide a private right of action.

The City of Tucson condemned a property and notified the owner that he was entitled to $38,284.72 in relocation-assistance benefits.  The owner filed an appeal with an agent for the City, claiming a larger benefit.  The agent affirmed the initial award.  The owner sued the City, asserting, among other things, a claim under the relocation-assistance statutes.  The trial court held that the relocation assistance statutes do not provide a private right of action and dismissed the complaint.  The owner appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed.  The relocation-assistance statutes neither expressly confer nor foreclose a private right of action.  However, the statutes provide for administrative review “by the chief executive officer of the acquiring agency whose decision shall be final.”  A.R.S. § 11-967.  The court held that this language of finality strongly indicates the legislature intended to limit review to the chief executive officer.  The court found some merit in the owner’s argument that the spirit and purpose of the relocation-assistance statutes support finding an implied right of action, but was ultimately persuaded by the language of the administrative review provision that the legislature did not contemplate a private right of action when it enacted the statute. 

Judge Eckerstrom authored the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Staring joined.  Judge Brearcliffe wrote a separate concurring opinion.