Taxpayer loses appeal of class-action denial against LaPorte County

A taxpayer lost his bid to be the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action over allegedly unpaid interest due to people who received refunds because they had overpaid their property tax bills.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed on interlocutory appeal the denial of the taxpayer’s motion for class certification in Charles J. Dempsey, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated v. LaPorte County Auditor Joie Winski and LaPorte County Treasurer Nancy Hawkins, 19A-PL-2683.

The LaPorte Superior Court denied Charles Dempsey’s bid to be the lead plaintiff in a purported class action, finding in favor of the county in litigation first filed more than five years ago and dealing with tax bills dating back to 2006.

The litigation involves refunds the county made after Dempsey won a reduced assessment for his taxes on a property on Lake Shore Drive in Michigan City. However, he was denied interest and filed a complaint seeking certification of a class of LaPorte County taxpayers who had received property tax refunds, but no interest, since 2006.

The county argued, among other things, that the proposed class was over broad and class membership could only be determined through an onerous process of sorting and scrutinizing paper records. The county also argued Dempsey wouldn’t even be a member of his own class, noting that while be received an adjustment of $892 for the 2011 tax year, it was applied to future tax payments and to waiving a late penalty.

The COA agreed with the trial court that Dempsey had not met the core requirements for class certification.

“At bottom, Dempsey has not identified any person he expects to vigorously represent. He suggests that other taxpayers are ignorant of their rights and are not participating in other litigation. But he simply does not know what taxpayers, if any, have initiated individual litigation or are interested in doing so,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote. “With the core deficit of information, Dempsey could not by bald assertions meet his burden of showing that class action litigation was superior to other methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.”

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