State ex rel. Indus. Comm’n of Ariz. v. Galloway – 4/15/2010

April 27, 2010

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health Citation and Notification of Penalty Can Constitute an Enforceable Civil Penalty Under A.R.S. § 23-418(J) and Is an Enforceable Lien for Eight Years.

In 1999, the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“ADOSH”) issued a Citation and Notification of Penalty (“Citation”) to Patrick and Lois Galloway (“Appellants”) under A.R.S. § 23-418.  Appellants challenged the Citation, but an ALJ found Appellants responsible and ordered them to pay the full amount of the penalties.  Because that decision was not appealed, it became a final order pursuant to A.R.S. § 23-421(C).  On April 30, 2003, ADOSH filed the Citation as a judgment with the superior Court to enforce the penalties and filed a Judgment Renewal Affidavit on February 13, 2007.  On September 18, 2008, ADOSH served one of the Appellant’s employers a Summons and Writ of Garnishment.  Appellants objected, asserting that ADOSH did not have a valid judgment against them.  The trial court overruled Appellants’ objection, and they timely appealed.

The Arizona Appeals Court affirmed.  The Court first held that the Citation was an enforceable judgment, citing A.R.S. § 23-418(J), which states that a civil penalty issued by ADOSH that becomes final “shall act as a judgment against the employer,” and when filed and entered in the Superior court, is “a lien for eight years from the date of the final order or decision.”  The Court rejected Appellants’ argument that the Citation never became a “final order” under A.R.S. § 23-418(J) and that ADOSH was instead required to file the ALJ’s decision rather than the Citation, explaining that under the plain language of the statute, the Citation was the operative document that acts as a judgment or lien and the ALJ’s decision simply gave the Citation the finality needed to become an enforceable judgment.  The Court noted, however, that if an ALJ’s decision lowers the amount of a Citation, ADOSH would be required to file the Citation in a manner that accurately reflects the amount of the penalty that becomes final after review.

The Court next held that the Citation served as an enforceable lien for eight years and that ADOSH prematurely sought renewal of the judgment.  Although A.R.S. § 12-1551(A) – the general statue limiting the time within which a superior court judgment must be enforced or renewed – only permits execution within five years after entry of the judgment, A.R.S. § 23-418(J) – the more specific statute governing ADOSH penalties –provides a longer eight-year limitations period.  Accordingly, a Citation can be renewed in accordance with A.R.S. § 12-1551 by substituting an eight-year period for the generally applicable five-year period.  ADOSH was therefore able to renew the judgment within ninety days preceding expiration of the eight-year period.  The Court held that ADOSH prematurely requested renewal in 2007, more than ninety days before the judgment was to expire, but that the defective renewal did not preclude ADOSH from proceeding in its garnishment action because it was commenced within the statutorily prescribed eight-year period. 

Judge Swann authored the opinion; Presiding Judge Norris and Judge Barker concurred.