Oral Argument March 25, 2014.
Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court. Docket No: 10-2-10384-3. Date filed: 05/08/2012. Judge signing: Honorable Stephanie a Arend.
Erik F. Ladenburg and John W. Ladenburg Jr. (of Sadler Ladenburg LLP ), for appellants.
Brian M. King and Ingrid L.D. McLeod (of Davies Pearson PC ), for respondent.
AUTHOR: Bradley A. Maxa, J. We concur: J. Robin Hunt, P.J., Thomas R. Bjorgen, J.
[181 Wn.App. 597] ¶ 1 25 U.S.C. § 410 provides that money accruing from any lease of Indian land the United States holds in trust for a Native American is not liable for the payment of any debt or claim against that Native American. The issue here is whether the statute applies when lease payments from Indian trust land are distributed to a Native American and placed in a private bank account.
¶ 2 Tiffany and Robert Harrison appealed the trial court's summary judgment award to First-Citizens Bank & [181 Wn.App. 598] Trust Company for its breach of contract lawsuit based on the Harrisons' failure to pay on a promissory note. First-Citizens cross appealed on the trial court's ruling that Native American Tiffany Harrison's personal bank accounts containing proceeds from the lease of her Indian trust land were exempt under 25 U.S.C. § 410 from garnishment to collect First-Citizens' judgment against the Harrisons. After the initial briefs were filed in this court, the Harrisons voluntarily withdrew their appeal.
¶ 3 We address First-Citizens' cross appeal, holding that (1) First-Citizens is judicially estopped from contesting that the money in the Harrisons' bank accounts derived solely from the lease of Indian trust land, and (2) the 25 U.S.C. § 410 exemption extends to money accruing from the lease of Indian trust land even after the money is placed in a Native American's personal bank account. Accordingly, we affirm. We also award First-Citizens its reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred in responding to the Harrisons' voluntarily dismissed appeal.
¶ 4 First-Citizens filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the Harrisons for failure to pay a promissory note based on a line of credit. The trial court entered an order
granting summary judgment in favor of First-Citizens on its claim, and awarded First-Citizens its reasonable attorney fees based on a contractual provision in the promissory note. This order resulted in a $161,831.97 judgment against the Harrisons.
¶ 5 First-Citizens sought to satisfy its judgment by garnishing the Harrisons' personal bank accounts at Banner Bank, Fife Commercial Bank, and Key Bank. Tiffany Harrison is an enrolled member of the Puyallup Tribe. The Harrisons claimed that the funds in their Banner Bank and Fife Commercial Bank accounts contained money only from the lease of Indian trust lands and therefore were exempt [181 Wn.App. 599] from garnishment under 25 U.S.C. § 410. First-Citizens objected to and moved to strike the Harrisons' exemption claims, arguing that the Harrisons did not specifically identify the nature of the funds in the accounts and that 25 U.S.C. § 410 is not applicable to money deposited into a Native American's personal bank account.
¶ 6 During oral argument on First-Citizens' motion to strike the Harrisons' claimed exemptions, First-Citizens assured the trial court that an evidentiary hearing regarding the source of the funds in the Harrisons' bank accounts was unnecessary because it was not disputing that the funds derived directly from Indian trust land. Based on the understanding that the parties' dispute was purely a legal one, the trial court heard argument on whether funds derived from Indian trust land deposited into a personal account were exempt from garnishment under 25 U.S.C. § 410. The trial court agreed with the Harrisons that ...