Reimbursing Money Improperly Received by Creditor
A.R.S Section 14-3909 provides, in relevant part, as follows:
A distributee of property or money improperly distributed or paid, or a claimant who was improperly paid, is liable to return the property improperly received and its income since distribution if he has the property. If such a distributee does not have the property, he is liable to return the value as of the date of disposition of the property improperly received and its income and gain received by him.
If such property is subsequently "acquired for value by a purchaser from or lender to a distributee," the purchaser or lender "takes title free of rights of any person interested in the estate and incurs no personal liability to the estate . . . ." A.R.S. 14-3910.
Section 14-3909 initially states that distributees and claimants must return property or money improperly distributed or paid. It then provides that "if such a distributee" no longer has this property, he is liable to the estate for its value.
If the legislature had intended to limit this provision to a "distributee," as defined in section 14-1201(15), its use of the word "such" was unnecessary.
We avoid interpreting a statute "so as to render any of its language mere 'surplusage,' and instead give meaning to 'each word, phrase, clause, and sentence . . . so that no part of the statute will be void, inert, redundant, or trivial.'" Herman v. City of Tucson, 197 Ariz. 430, , 4 P.3d 973, 977, (App. 1999) (quoting Walker v. City of Scottsdale, 163 Ariz. 206, 210, 786 P.2d 1057, 1061 (App. 1989)).
Moreover, we presume that the legislature did not intend an absurd result and our construction must avoid such a consequence. State v. Medrano-Barraza, 190 Ariz. 472, 474, 949 P.2d 561, 563 (App. 1997);
see also A.R.S. 1-211(B) (1995) ("Statutes shall be liberally construed to effect their objects and to promote justice.").
Applying these principles to our interpretation of section 14-3909, we decide that the legislature's reference to "such a distributee" includes claimants who improperly receive money or property.
This interpretation gives meaning to the term "such." It also avoids a construction of the statute that would compel a claimant to surrender improperly received property but allow him to keep the ill-gotten gains from a sale of the property, an absurd result.