from the Superior Court in Pima County No. CR20170196 The
Honorable Cynthia T. Kuhn, Judge
Sammartino Law Group P.L.L.C., Tucson By Carl Sammartino
Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant
Jennings, Strouss & Salmon P.L.C., Tucson By John J.
Kastner Jr., Danielle J. K. Constant, and Laura R. Curry and
Michael J. Rankin, Tucson City Attorney By Damian Fellows,
Principal Assistant City Attorney, Tucson Counsel for
Judge Eckerstrom authored the opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Staring concurred and Judge Brearcliffe
ECKERSTROM, CHIEF JUDGE.
Michael Burns appeals from the trial court's order
dismissing his complaint that alleged violations of his
rights under Arizona's relocation-assistance statutes. He
argues those statutes imply a private right of action, that
he was entitled to bring a negligence action to remedy his
inadequate relocation-assistance award, and that the superior
court should have exercised special-action jurisdiction. We
and Procedural History
On review of a motion to dismiss, "we assume the truth
of all material facts alleged by [the plaintiff]."
Phelps Dodge Corp. v. El Paso Corp., 213 Ariz. 400,
¶ 8 (App. 2006). In October 2015, following condemnation
of certain property belonging to Burns, an agent for the City
of Tucson notified him that he was entitled to receive a
total of $38, 284.72 in relocation-assistance benefits.
See A.R.S. § 11-963. In December, Burns filed
an appeal with that agent claiming he was entitled to a
larger benefit. The agent, with the concurrence of the
Project Manager of the City's Real Estate program,
affirmed the assistance award a month later. In July 2016,
Burns served a notice of claim on the City and, in January
2017, brought suit, alleging negligence, a claim under the
relocation-assistance statutes, and that the City had denied
him due process.
The City filed a motion to dismiss asserting the superior
court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the
relocation-assistance statutes do not provide for judicial
review. Following a hearing, the trial court
determined neither the relocation-assistance statutes nor the
Administrative Review Act authorized judicial review and
dismissed Burns's complaint with prejudice. See
A.R.S. § 12-902(A). The court further declined to treat
the complaint as a petition for special action. Burns
appealed; we have jurisdiction. A.R.S. §§
12-120.21(A)(1), 12-2101 (A)(1).
Right of Action
Burns argues our relocation-assistance statutes, see
A.R.S. §§ 11-961 to 11-974, imply a private right
of action in favor of displaced persons aggrieved by the
amount of relocation-assistance benefits an acquiring agency
offers. Whether a statute implies a private right of action
is a question of law we review de novo. Gersten v. Sun
Pain Mgmt, P.L.L.C, 242 Ariz. 301, ¶ 8 (App. 2017).
In relevant part, our relocation-assistance statutes require
a "displacing agency, as a part of the cost of the
project, [to] make a payment to a displaced person . . . for
. . . [a]ctual reasonable expenses in moving himself and his
family, business, . . . or other personal property."
A.R.S. § 11-963(A)(1). Further, the statute provides
that a "displaced person aggrieved by . . . the amount
of a payment, may have his application reviewed by the chief
executive officer of the acquiring agency whose decision
shall be final." A.R.S. § 11-967.
In determining whether the relocation-assistance statutes
provide a private right of action, we begin with the
statutory language, which is "the best and most reliable
index of its meaning." Arpaio v. Steinle, 201
Ariz. 353, ¶ 5 (App. 2001). "[W]hen the statute is
plain and unambiguous, we will not engage in any other method
of statutory interpretation." City of Tucson v.
Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc., 218 Ariz. 172, ¶ 13
(App. 2008). However, in the absence of express language,
Arizona law more broadly implies a private right of action
"when consistent with 'the context of the statutes,
the language used, the subject matter, the effects and
consequences, and the spirit and purpose of the
law.'" Chavez v. Brewer, 222
Ariz. 309, ¶ 24 (App. 2009) (quoting Transamerica
Fin. Corp. v. Superior Court, 158 Ariz. 115, 116
The statute neither expressly confers nor forecloses a
private right of action. Accordingly, we must consider not
only the statutory language, but also its context, subject
matter, effects and ...