Monroe v. Gagan

Decision Date25 June 2015
Docket NumberNo. 1 CA-CV 13-0273,1 CA-CV 13-0273
PartiesJAMES A. MONROE, an unmarried man, and KIMBERLEY MONROE PIRTLE, Plaintiffs/Appellants/Cross-Appellees, v. JAMES L. GAGAN and JANE DOE GAGAN, husband and wife, Defendants/Appellees/Cross-Appellants.
CourtArizona Court of Appeals


Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County

No. CV2007-016208 and CV2007-016537

The Honorable Robert H. Oberbillig, Judge



By James A. Monroe, Kimberley Monroe Pirtle, Scottsdale

In Propria Persona Plaintiffs/Appellants/Cross-Appellees

Law Office of Lyndon B. Steimel, Scottsdale

By Lyndon B. Steimel


Brian Custy, Merrillville, IN

Co-Counsel for Defendants/Appellees/Cross-Appellants

Judge John C. Gemmill delivered the decision of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Patricia K. Norris and Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop joined.


¶1 This appeal and cross appeal arise from a judgment in favor of Plaintiffs/Appellants/Cross-Appellees James A. Monroe ("Monroe") and Kimberley Monroe Pirtle. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment, with the exception that we vacate the trial court's denial of prejudgment interest and remand for entry of an amended judgment that includes prejudgment interest.


¶2 In 1994, Defendant/Appellee/Cross-Appellant James L. Gagan obtained a $1.7 million judgment against Monroe in an Indiana federal court. Enforcement of this judgment led to a United States Marshal's sale of Monroe's Scottsdale property in November 2006, at which time Gagan purchased the property with a $560,000 credit bid. Gagan received a marshal's deed to the property in May 2007, at that time paying approximately $8,000 in marshal's costs and approximately $104,000 to satisfy Monroe's mortgage.

¶3 Monroe sued Gagan in August 2007, seeking declaratory judgment, quiet title, and damages for his eviction from the Scottsdale property. Summary judgment was granted in Gagan's favor in 2010, from which Monroe appealed. Monroe and Pirtle also filed two lis pendens over the course of litigation, each of which was quashed by the trial court.

¶4 In Monroe v. Gagan, 1-CA-CV 10-0589, 2011 WL 2555736 (Ariz. App. June 28, 2011), this court affirmed summary judgment in Gagan's favor on most of Monroe's claims, remanding on the issues of whether Monroe was entitled to payment of a homestead exemption from the proceeds of the marshal's sale and what, if any, offsets might be deducted from the exemption. Id. at *7, ¶26. The trial court then held a bench trial, ultimately ruling that Monroe was entitled to a homestead exemption under Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") sections 33-1101 and -1105. The trial court also decided that Gagan had proved waste of the propertyjustifying offsets to the $150,000 homestead exemption in the amount of $36,595.24. Judgment was entered in 2013 in Monroe's favor for $113,404.76, plus post-judgment interest until paid. Prejudgment interest was not awarded. Monroe timely appealed, and Gagan timely cross-appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. §§ 12-120.21(A)(1) and - 2101(A)(1).

I. Monroe's Appeal
A. Trial Court's Interpretation of A.R.S. § 33-1101(c)

¶5 Monroe first contends that the trial court erred in applying A.R.S. § 33-1101(c), but Monroe does not develop this argument or cite any authority as required by the Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure. See Ariz. R. Civ. App. P. 13(a)(6) (requiring a party to support an argument with the "reasons therefor, with citations to the authorities, statutes and parts of the record relied on"). We therefore decline to address this issue. See Polanco v. Indus. Comm'n, 214 Ariz. 489, 491 n.2, ¶ 6, 154 P.3d 391, 393 n.2 (App. 2007) (holding that a party waived an issue by only mentioning it in passing in the opening brief, citing no supporting legal authority, and failing to further develop the argument).

B. Prejudgment Interest and Post-Judgment Interest Rate
1. Entitlement to Prejudgment Interest

¶6 Monroe next argues that the trial court erred in failing to award prejudgment interest on the homestead exemption proceeds. He claims that he is entitled to prejudgment interest because the exemption is a liquidated debt. Because this issue involves a matter of law, our review is de novo. Alta Vista Plaza, Ltd. v. Insulation Specialists Co., 186 Ariz. 81, 82, 919 P.2d 176, 177 (App. 1995).

¶7 When a claim sounds in contract or tort, "a party with a liquidated claim is entitled to prejudgment interest as a matter of right." Precision Heavy Haul, Inc. v. Trail King Industries, Inc., 224 Ariz. 159, 160, ¶ 4, 228 P.3d 895, 896 (App. 2010). A liquidated claim is one "ascertainable by accepted standards of valuation," Alta Vista Plaza, 186 Ariz. at 83, 919 P.2d at 178, such that the sum demanded is "susceptible to exact computation" without reliance on opinion or discretion. Costanzo v. Stewart Title & Trust of Phoenix, 23 Ariz. App. 313, 317, 533 P.2d 73, 77 (App. 1975). A disputeover liability, apportionment of fault, or the amount due will not serve to make a claim for damages unliquidated when the basis for calculating those damages is certain. Precision Heavy Haul, 224 Ariz. at 162-63, 228 P.3d at 898-99 (citing Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburg, Pa., 64 F.3d 1282, 1291 (9th Cir. 1995)).

¶8 Here, the homestead exemption is a liquidated debt. Although there was a dispute as to whether the exemption should be awarded and the extent, if any, of offsets to be applied against it, the potential amount was calculable by subtracting any potential offsets from the base amount of the homestead exemption. Gagan argues that because there was a dispute as to the applicable amount of offsets, the claim was not exactly calculable and therefore unliquidated. But a question as to liability or apportionment of damages does not make a claim unliquidated. Id.; see also Homes & Son Const. Co. v. Bolo Corp., 22 Ariz. App. 303, 306, 526 P.2d 1258, 1261 (App. 1974) (explaining that "[m]ere differences of opinion as to the amount" of a judgment will not preclude awarding prejudgment interest). We conclude, therefore, that the amount owed Monroe under the homestead exemption was a liquidated claim. As a matter of law, Monroe is entitled to prejudgment interest.

¶9 Prejudgment interest begins to accrue when the judgment creditor provides "sufficient information" and supporting data to allow the debtor to determine the amount owed. Homes & Son Const., 22 Ariz. App. at 306-07, 526 P.2d at 1261-62. This typically occurs when demand for a "sum certain" is made on the judgment debtor. Rawlings v. Apodaca, 151 Ariz. 180, 186, 726 P.2d 596, 602 (App. 1985), vacated in part on other grounds, 151 Ariz. 149 (1986). Because the $150,000 homestead exemption "automatically attached to the [debtor's] interest in identifiable cash proceeds" from the sale of the property, see A.R.S. § 33-1101, an adequate "demand" for the exemption was deemed to have been made at that time, see Stenz v. Indus. Comm'n of Ariz., 236 Ariz. 104, 107, ¶ 8, 336 P.3d 737, 740 (App. 2014) (explaining that interest began to accrue on a claim for disability benefits when the debtor had "notice of its obligation" to pay the benefits). Gagan had sufficient information to determine the amount owed at the time of the sale. We therefore vacate the trial court's denial of prejudgment interest and remand to the superior court to enter an awardof prejudgment interest accruing from the time of the foreclosure sale in November 2006.1

2. Post-Judgment Interest Rate

¶10 Monroe next argues that the trial court erred when it approved a post-judgment interest rate of 4.25 percent.2 Monroe claims that the correct interest rate is 10 percent pursuant to A.R.S. § 44-1201(A). We review de novo the interpretation of statutes. See Minjares v. State, 223 Ariz. 54, 61, ¶ 33, 219 P.3d 264, 271 (App. 2009) (reviewing a previous version of this statute).

¶11 Before a statutory amendment in 2011, Monroe's assertion that A.R.S. § 44-1201(A) governed the default interest rates on Arizona judgments would have been correct. The legislature amended § 44-1201 in 2011, however, and the word "judgment" was deleted from subsection (A). 2011 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 99, § 15 (1st Reg. Sess.). Since that amendment, § 44-1201(B) contains the following operative language regarding judgments:

Unless specifically provided for in statute or a different rate is contracted for in writing, interest on any judgment shall be at the lesser of ten per cent per annum or at a rate per annum that is equalto one per cent plus the prime rate as published by the board of governors of the federal reserve system in statistical release H.15 or any publication that may supersede it on the date that the judgment is entered. The judgment shall state the applicable interest rate and it shall not change after it is entered.

(emphasis added). The legislature stated that this amendment "applies to all loans that are entered into, all debts and obligations incurred and all judgments that are entered on or after" July 20, 2011. See S.B. 1212, 50th Leg. 1st Sess. (Ariz. 2011) (enacted). Although the events giving rise to the judgment occurred before 2011, Monroe's right to post-judgment interest did not vest until judgment was entered in 2013. See Steinfeld v. Nielsen, 15 Ariz. 424, 465, 139 P. 879, 896 (1913) (explaining that rights contingent on the happening of a future event are not vested). The court, therefore, appropriately followed the amended version of the statute by applying a post-judgment interest rate of 4.25 percent.3

C. Evidentiary Issues

¶12 Finally, Monroe argues that the trial court erred in admitting evidence that resulted in "excessive" offsets from Monroe's homestead exemption award. We review evidentiary rulings for an abuse of...

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