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Ha v. CMP Tactical Lazer Tag

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 18, 2018

TU HA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CMP TACTICAL LAZER TAG, Defendant-Appellee, AKA TACTICAL LASER TAG, L.L.C. and ESCAPE CHAMBERS, L.L.C., Intervenors-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, David M. Porter, Judge.

         A plaintiff appeals an order prohibiting her from levying assets of intervenors.

          Sarah M. Baumgartner and Nathaniel R. Boulton of Hedberg & Boulton, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Spencer S. Cady of Nyemaster Goode, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees AKA Tactical Laser Tag, L.L.C. and Escape Chambers, L.L.C.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE

         Tu Ha appeals an order prohibiting her from levying assets from a property on Sixth Street in Des Moines, operating as AKA Tactical Laser Tag, L.L.C. (AKA) and Escape Chambers, L.L.C. (Escape Chambers), to satisfy her workers' compensation judgment against CMP Tactical Lazer Tag (CMP). On appeal, Ha argues she should be allowed to levy assets from the property because AKA, CMP, and Escape Chambers are all the same business and because the claimed sales transaction between the three businesses was fraudulent.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         This dispute stems from an injury Ha suffered in January 2014. Ha was working as a referee for laser tag at the Sixth Street location when she was hit in the eye with a laser gun. She suffered a concussion and was admitted to the hospital. Ha later suffered from post-concussive headaches, anxiety, depression, and interrupted sleep-wake cycles.

         The parties dispute whether Ha is entitled to enforce her judgment against CMP also against AKA and EC. According to Ha, she was hired in November 2013 by AKA and continued working at the same facility on Sixth Street after her injury until April 2014. In early 2014 the facility rebranded itself as CMP, making announcements on its Facebook page regarding the name change and ordering new branded t-shirts. AKA now claims Ha was never an employee. Ha ceased working at the laser tag business in April.

         Ha contacted CMP regarding her medical bills and attempted to obtain tax documents from them. She did not get a reply from CMP. Ha hired an attorney and filed a workers' compensation petition against CMP in September 2014, giving the Sixth Street address. In November, Ha filed and served a petition against AKA providing a Wisconsin address.[1] The record includes a letter from Workforce development to AKA in Wisconsin. AKA claims it responded with a letter to the workers' compensation commission from Kerry Poznanski, with a copy to Ha's attorney requesting the letter be treated as an answer and stating she did not "believe" Ha was an employee of AKA. The AKA petition was assigned the same case number as the previously filed CMP petition. The agency case proceeded with a caption including only CMP. AKA claims it did not receive further notices or communication regarding Ha's claim. CMP did not participate in the workers' compensation hearing; CMP failed to file an appearance, motion, answer, or other pleading. Default was entered against CMP only; the arbitration decision in August 2015 limited its findings because of the default, stating: "As an entry of default has been entered against defendant, the issues of existence of an employer-employee relationship and whether claimant sustained an injury on January 19, 2014 that arose out of and in the course of employment will not be discussed." Ha was awarded workers' compensation benefits, interest, medical expenses, costs, and penalty benefits against CMP in an arbitration decision in August 2015.

         Ha still received no communication from CMP. She filed a motion for entry of judgment against CMP in November 2015 at the district court; she did not request judgment against any other entity. The court entered a judgment against CMP for Ha's damages in January 2016. Ha unsuccessfully attempted to garnish CMP's bank accounts. In September, Ha attempted to levy assets located at the property on Sixth Street in Des Moines. The property owner claimed the levy was unenforceable because the order was against CMP and the building is leased by AKA and Escape Chambers.

         Ha filed a motion to clarify the enforceability of the levy, arguing successor liability against AKA and Escape Chambers. AKA and Escape Chambers filed a motion to intervene and a resistance to Ha's motion, arguing they are distinct entities from CMP and the judgment was entered against CMP alone. After hearing argument and receiving affidavits the district court allowed Ha to submit documentary evidence to support her claim all three entities are related. Ha submitted copies of three checks made out to her from "AKA Tactical Laser Tag" dated February and March 2014. The court accepted the Intervenors' claim the checks were not payroll checks because they did not reveal withholding information. On April 10, 2017, the district court entered an order prohibiting Ha from levying assets at the property on Sixth Street. The court found Ha did not demonstrate a connection between CMP, AKA, and Escape Chambers at the time of her injury. The court found the judgment entered against CMP does not extend to the property on Sixth Street, AKA, or Escape Chambers. Ha appeals.

         II. ...


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