August 21, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Health Savings Account Not Exempt From Garnishment

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Commercial Research LLC v. Roup on Thursday, December 5, 2013.

Garnishment—Health Savings Account—Retirement Plan—Exemption.

Gary S. Roup appealed the trial court’s order denying his claim of garnishment exemption in favor of Commercial Research, LLC (creditor). The order was affirmed.

Creditor obtained an assignment of a default judgment that had been entered against Roup in a Texas court. Creditor then filed the judgment in Colorado and began collection proceedings against Roup’s assets, including $3,729 held in a health savings account (HSA).

On appeal, Roup contended that his HSA is a “retirement plan” and therefore exempt from garnishment under CRS § 13-54-102(1)(s). An HSA is not intended to replace income lost as a result of retirement; it is intended to cover medical costs incurred at any point during an individual’s lifetime. Therefore an HSA is not a “retirement plan” and is not exempt from garnishment.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: In Garnishment Action, Earnings Exemption Does Not Apply to Independent Contractor Since Indebtedness Owed to Contractor Not Earnings

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Idaho Pacific Lumber Co., Inc. v. Celestial Land Co. Ltd. on Thursday, September 26, 2013.

Judgment—Creditor—Debtor—Garnishment—Independent Contractor—Exemption—Writ of Assistance.

Plaintiff Idaho Pacific Lumber Company, Inc. (judgment creditor) appealed the trial court’s order in favor of Celestial Land Company Limited (garnishee) regarding a debt it owed defendant Jack B. Kaufman (judgment debtor). The order was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded.

Judgment creditor served garnishee with a writ of garnishment on personal property and a writ of continuing garnishment for any debt owed to judgment debtor. Garnishee, who was an independent contractor rather than an employee, answered the writs on the basis that the debt owed to judgment debtor constituted earnings, and therefore only 25% was subject to garnishment.

On appeal, judgment creditor contended that the trial court erred in concluding that the debt owed to judgment debtor by garnishee constituted earnings under CRS § 13-54.5-101(2)(a)(I). Because indebtedness owed to an independent contractor is not earnings, the exemption was inapplicable.

Judgment creditor also contended that the trial court erred by denying its motion for a writ of assistance to collect all of judgment debtor’s property. There is no Colorado authority that supports judgment creditor’s request for such a broad writ of assistance under CRCP 69. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in denying judgment creditor’s motion for a writ of assistance. Finally, judgment creditor’s request for attorney fees pursuant to CRCP 103(8)(b)(5) was denied.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: C.R.S. § 38-38-111(2) Does Not Bar Garnishment of Excess Foreclosure Funds by Judgment Creditor

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in TCF Equipment Finance, Inc. v. Public Trustee for the City and County of Denver on Thursday, January 17, 2013.

Writ of Garnishment by Judgment Debtor on Public Trustee Foreclosure Funds.

The Public Trustee for the City and County of Denver (Public Trustee) appealed the trial court’s order upholding a writ of garnishment served by TCF Equipment Financial, Inc. (TCF) for the purposes of collecting on a judgment against a judgment debtor, Matthew Gold, whose property had been foreclosed on by the Public Trustee. The order was affirmed.

TCF obtained a judgment against Gold that was not satisfied. TCF seized Gold’s commercial equipment, which satisfied a portion of the judgment. A month before entry of judgment, Gold’s real property was foreclosed on by the mortgaging bank. The foreclosure sale yielded substantial excess funds. The redemption period expired, and the excess funds were held in escrow by the Public Trustee. The parties agree that TCF could not have filed a notice to redeem, or attempted to participate in the foreclosure sale, because the foreclosure predated the judgment. However, TCF sought to garnish the funds held by the Public Trustee before their return to Gold.

The Public Trustee argued that, pursuant to CRS § 38-38-111(2), the Public Trustee has a legal obligation to return any excess funds to the judgment debtor after the expiration of the redemption period. The trial court disagreed, finding the garnishment was for funds remaining after the foreclosure had been completed.

On appeal, the Public Trustee argued that during a foreclosure, a judgment creditor cannot use garnishment as a means to gain priority over a judgment debtor, because the foreclosure statute clearly specifies excess proceeds are to be distributed to the judgment debtor. The Court of Appeals disagreed. CRCP 103(13) provides for the garnishment of a public body, and CRCP 103(2)(a) spells out the garnishment procedure. TCF contended it is a judgment creditor and that CRS § 38-38-111(2) is not the sole method to recover excess funds generated from a foreclosure sale. The Court agreed, holding that a judgment creditor’s garnishment claim filed after the close of the redemption period in a foreclosure sale is not barred by the foreclosure statute.

The Court found that TCF was not a junior lienor in the foreclosure proceeding. However, once the Public Trustee determined that the overbid funds were to be paid to the owner, garnishment of those funds is outside the foreclosure procedure. The garnishment statute provides a mechanism for a judgment creditor to reach the judgment debtor’s assets possessed by a third party. If the legislature had intended to prohibit garnishment actions commenced after a foreclosure sale, it could have done so. The Court found no reason to treat the Public Trustee any differently than any other entity holding funds of a judgment debtor.

Summary and full case available here.