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COA affirms tax suit dismissal for lack of jurisdiction

June 29, 2018

The owners of about 1,800 properties in Lake County lost their appeal Friday of the dismissal of a lawsuit against the county over an agreement regarding the payment of back taxes.

The owners’ suit, D.A.Y. Investments LLC, Andy's Truck & Equipment Co., Gold Coast Rand Development Co., Surplus Management Systems LLC, Gary II LLC and Andrew Young v. Lake County, Indiana, et al., 45A03-1709-PL-2122, sought specific performance of a settlement agreement over 2010 taxes payable in 2011 after the owners declared bankruptcy in 2012.

The agreement called for the owners to pay $904,954.58, which the owners did. But the owners sued in 2016, alleging the county had not lived up to the agreement. The suit alleged property assessments resulted in excessive taxes and disputed tax liens, among other things.

Lake Superior Judge Bruce D. Parent dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and denied the owners’ motion to correct error, and the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed those rulings Friday.

“Because this is a case claiming error in the assessed value of property, Indiana Code chapter 6-1.1-15 governs procedures for review and appeal of the assessments,” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the panel. “… There are several steps, starting with the taxpayer seeking review by filing notice with the relevant county or township official, Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-1.1(a), and ending with a final determination by the Indiana Board of Tax Review, Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-4. Once the Indiana Board of Tax Review has rendered a final determination, the taxpayer may file a petition for judicial review with the Indiana Tax Court. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-5. It does not appear the Owners have availed themselves of this administrative process for any tax year of which they now complain the assessments were in error.”

“In other words, the subject matter of the Owners’ claim is one within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Tax Court. The fact that the Owners may have forfeited an appeal to the Tax Court by failing to avail themselves of that process for adjudicating their claim does not give the Lake Superior Court subject matter jurisdiction over this case,” the panel concluded.

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