COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO v. MUNIZ

Reset A A Font size: Print

Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, California.

COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Alfredo G. MUNIZ, Defendant and Appellant.

Civ. 16763.

Decided: October 18, 1977

Langford & Lane, by James M. Lane, San Diego, for defendant and appellant. Donald L. Clark, County Counsel by Leonard W. Pollard, II, Deputy County Counsel, San Diego, for plaintiff and respondent.

The facts are not in dispute. The County of San Diego (County) filed a complaint against Alfredo G. Muniz for reimbursement of general welfare benefits. The County alleged and proved that after the defendant received the benefits, he was gainfully employed and received wages for more than one year. The County obtained a judgment in the amount of $1,763.02. The Appellate Department of the Superior Court reversed that judgment.

The only issue we are concerned with is whether the County has a claim for reimbursement against a person who has obtained employment and been paid wages, i. e., does a person who is employed and paid wages acquire “property” so as to give use to the County's claim for public money spent for his support in the past?

Welfare and Institutions Code section 17403 reads as follows:

“If a person for the support of whom public moneys have been expended acquires property, the county shall have a claim against him to the amount of a reasonable charge for moneys so expended, and such claim shall be enforced by action against him by the district attorney of the county on request of the board of supervisors. In a proper case therefor, the district attorney shall apply to the proper court for the appointment of a guardian of the person or estate, or both, of the indigent. The support of such indigent from public funds shall be deemed a ground for sale or encumbrance of his property under the provisions of Section 1530 of the Probate Code.” (Emphasis added.)

Without delimiting language “property” generally includes everything which is the subject of ownership, corporeal or incorporeal, tangible or intangible, visible or invisible, real or personal; everything that has an exchangeable value or which goes to make up wealth or estate (Blacks Law Dict., Rev. 4th ed.).

The record does not disclose the nature of Muniz' employment so as to determine whether he has any special contractual or vested rights which may be said to be “property.” It cannot be disputed, however, wages earned and paid to an employee are property.

Section 17409 of the Welfare and Institutions Code reads in part as follows:

“There shall be exempt from the transfers and grants authorized by Section 17109 and from attachment and execution on claims under Section 17403 against property acquired by persons for the support of whom public moneys have been expended all of the following property :

“(a) Cash to the amount of fifty dollars ($50).

“(b) Personal effects and household furniture to the value of five hundred dollars ($500).

“ . . . ”al

The fact the Legislature provides a certain amount of cash is “property” exempt from execution of section 17403 claims, makes it abundantly clear it intended cash acquired by the recipient is “property.” The action the County instituted was proper on the allegation and proof Muniz acquired cash (received wages).

Muniz argues that until the person accumulates some amount of cash it is not property which should be taken from the marginal wage earner. We find nothing in the law to support this theory. Protection of the marginal wage earner from unreasonable execution on a judgment after a claim under section 17403 is provided for by statute (Welf. & Inst. Code s 17409; see Code Civ.Proc. s 690.19).

Judgment of the Municipal Court affirmed.

COLOGNE, Associate Justice.

GERALD BROWN, P. J., and ROSADO (Judge of the Superior Court of San Diego County sitting under assignment by the Chairperson of the Judicial Council), J., concur.

Copied to clipboard