This opinion will be unpublished and may
not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Fobair Furniture, Inc.,
d/b/a Fobair's Furniture Plaza,
American Chrome Co., Inc.,
Affirmed; motion granted
Freeborn County District Court
File No. C8-97-608
Merna J. Sunde, P. O. Box 728, Albert Lea, MN 56007 (pro se appellant)
Richard P. Mahoney, Victor E. Lund, Mahoney, Dougherty & Mahoney, P.A., 801 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404-1189 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
The district court ordered distribution of $3,000 that had been deposited with the court as a partial settlement in a negligence action. Merna Sunde appeals, contending that the order erroneously permits execution on exempt property. Because Minnesota does not exempt from execution the proceeds of a personal-injury action, we affirm.
American Chrome Co., Inc., deposited $3,000 with the court to enforce a settlement agreement with Merna Sunde and to obtain discharge in a supplemental garnishment proceeding brought by Fobair Furniture Co., Inc. Both the settlement and the garnishment stemmed from Sunde’s negligence action against American Chrome and Fobair Furniture for injuries Sunde suffered when she fell from a chair in Fobair’s Furniture Plaza. Alleging design and manufacturing defects, Sunde sued American Chrome and Fobair Furniture in June 1995.
During trial, Sunde agreed to settle her claim against American Chrome by executing a Pierringer release in exchange for American Chrome’s payment of $3,000. After a trial on the remaining claim against Fobair Furniture, the jury found neither Fobair Furniture nor American Chrome at fault for Sunde’s injuries. The district court assessed costs and disbursements for Fobair and entered judgment against Sunde for $6,090.49.
As part of its attempt to collect on its costs-and-disbursements judgment against Sunde, Fobair served a garnishment summons on American Chrome’s insurance agency to garnish the $3,000 settlement that American Chrome was obligated to pay Sunde. Because American Chrome had forwarded the check to Sunde, but Sunde had neither cashed the check nor signed the release, a series of motions ensued. On May 28, 1999, the district court, following a hearing, issued an order enforcing the settlement between American Chrome and Sunde; ordering Sunde to sign the Pierringer release; and ordering American Chrome to reissue the $3,000 check, naming the court administrator as payee. The court further ordered that all parties execute a stipulation of dismissal against American Chrome and discharged American Chrome from the garnishment proceedings.
In August 1999, American Chrome again moved for an order requiring Sunde to execute the still-unsigned release, and Fobair Furniture moved for an order directing the court administrator to pay Fobair Furniture the $3,000 on deposit with the court. On August 30, 1999, the district court ordered the court administrator to release the $3,000 to Fobair Furniture in partial satisfaction of the costs-and-disbursements judgment. The order also required Sunde to pay $250 in attorneys’ fees because of her failure to comply with the previous orders. Sunde appeals, arguing that the settlement proceeds are exempt from execution because they are a right of action for personal injuries, which is protected by statute.
D E C I S I O N
A debtor’s right of action for personal injuries is exempt from garnishment, attachment, or sale on any final process. Minn. Stat. § 550.37, subds. 1, 22 (1998). Sunde argues that because she had not signed a release or stipulation of dismissal at the time Fobair served the garnishment summons on American Chrome’s insurer, the $3,000 deposited with the court is not subject to execution and the district court erred in ordering the money to be paid to Fobair in the garnishment proceedings. We reject this argument and hold that the district court did not err by distributing the money.
Our function in interpreting statutes is to ascertain and effectuate legislative intent. Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (1998). When a statute is free from ambiguity, we look only at its plain language. Id.; Tuma v. Commissioner of Econ. Sec., 386 N.W.2d 702, 706 (Minn. 1986). We conclude that the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 550.37, subd. 22, exempts from execution a debtor’s right of action, but does not exempt from execution proceeds obtained from a personal-injury action. We note that the federal courts have applied the statute consistent with our interpretation. See Christians v. Dulas, 95 F.3d 703, 704-05 (8th Cir. 1996) (settling a personal-injury claim reduces a right of action to a right of payment, and proceeds are not exempt); In re Procter, 186 B.R. 466, 468-69 (Bankr. D. Minn. 1995) (Minnesota legislature has not extended the right-of-action exemption to proceeds obtained from a personal-injury claim).
Sunde’s attempt to argue that the $3,000 was exempt because she had not signed the release or stipulated settlement is unpersuasive. Following the May 5, 1999, hearing, the district court determined that a binding settlement agreement was reached between Sunde and American Chrome during the trial. Sunde did not appeal from this order; therefore, the determination is final. See Dieseth v. Calder Mfg. Co., 275 Minn. 365, 370, 147 N.W.2d 100, 103 (1966) (order is final after the time for appeal has expired).
Sunde arguably had a right of action against American Chrome when she was injured. But because she extinguished that right when she settled her claims against American Chrome in July 1998 during the course of trial, the proceeds from that settlement are not exempt from execution under Minn. Stat. § 550.37, subd. 22.
Finally, we address Fobair Furniture’s motion to strike Sunde’s reply brief. A reply brief must be confined to new matters raised in respondent’s brief. Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 128.02, subd. 3. We have not considered those portions of the brief that fall outside the issues permitted under the appellate rules. See State v. Medibus-Helpmobile, Inc., 481 N.W.2d 86, 93 (Minn. App. 1992) (for purposes of rule 128.02, “new matter” means “new issue”), review denied (Minn. Mar. 19, 1992).
Affirmed; motion granted.