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Muir Woods Section One Association, Inc. v. Fuentes

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 12, 2019

Muir Woods Section One Association, Inc., et al., Appellants-Plaintiffs,
v.
Claudia O. Fuentes, Marion County Treasurer; et al., Appellees-Defendants.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court Cause No. 49D14-1802-CC-6237 The Honorable James B. Osborn, Judge

          Attorney for Appellants James K. Gilday Gilday & Associates, P.C. Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellees Jessica R. Gastineau Traci M. Cosby Office of Corporation Counsel Indianapolis, Indiana

          BAILEY, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Pursuant to Indiana Code Section 6-1.1-15-1.1, Muir Woods Section One Association, Inc. ("Muir Woods") and Nantucket Bay Homeowners Association, Inc. ("Nantucket Bay") (collectively, at times, "the Homeowners Associations") obtained review and appeal of property tax assessments on common area parcels, for tax years 2006 through 2009. The Marion County Assessor ("the Assessor") and the Marion County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals ("PTABOA") agreed to zero assessments and the Marion County Treasurer ("the Treasurer") issued refund checks, which were allegedly deficient. Muir Woods and Nantucket Bay attempted collection in the Marion County Superior Court against the Assessor, the Treasurer, and the Marion County Auditor (collectively, "the Taxing Authorities").[1] The Taxing Authorities filed Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(1) motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, contending that the disputes arose under tax laws, and jurisdiction over the disputes, including any question as to exhaustion of administrative remedies, could only lie in the Indiana Tax Court ("the Tax Court"). The trial court consolidated the complaints and dismissed the consolidated complaint, with prejudice. This appeal by the Homeowners Associations presents a single, consolidated issue of whether the Marion Superior Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case. Because the claim is that the Homeowners Associations overpaid their property taxes and lack effective recourse under the then-existing property tax scheme, it is not a claim that the Marion Superior Court can adjudicate. We affirm the dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[2]

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] Nantucket Bay filed real estate appeal petitions to challenge assessed values of its parcels for tax year 2006 and successive years. Nantucket Bay and the Assessor agreed that, for tax year 2006, eleven parcels had an assessed value of zero. The parties executed eleven copies of Form 134 to reflect the zero assessments. Those determinations were not appealed by either party.[3] Upon receiving Nantucket Bay's claims for refund, the Treasurer issued four checks, in the aggregate amount of $11, 290.29. Nantucket Bay did not cash the checks. The funds may have been placed in the general fund of the county or into a surplus tax fund, pursuant to Indiana Code Section 6-1.1-26-6(c), [4] although Nantucket Bay allegedly did not receive notice of such action.

         [¶3] Muir Woods filed real estate appeal petitions to challenge assessed values of its parcels for tax year 2006. On June 24 and June 25, 2011, the PTABOA issued determinations that, for tax year 2006, eighteen parcels had an assessed value of zero. On October 3, 2011, Muir Woods and the Assessor completed forms to reflect that, for tax year 2007, twenty-three parcels had an assessed value of zero and, for tax year 2009, one parcel had an assessed value of zero. The determinations were not appealed by either party. Upon receiving Muir Woods' claims for refund, the Treasurer issued a check in the amount of $11, 481.42. Muir Woods did not cash the check.[5]

         [¶4] In February of 2018, Nantucket Bay and Muir Woods each filed a "Complaint to Collect Determined Overpaid Real Estate Tax." (App. Vol. II, pgs. 18-26.) The Taxing Authorities filed motions to dismiss. On May 25, 2018, the trial court issued an order consolidating the actions. On August 8, 2018, the trial court conducted a hearing at which argument of counsel was heard. The parties agreed that: zero assessments were made as to the subject properties; there had been no appeal of the assessments; refund checks had been issued; and, during the ensuing years, no formal administrative challenges to the checks had been lodged. They did not directly address whether the issuance of the checks triggered a right to any further administrative process. Rather, the Taxing Authorities argued that the trial court should dismiss the case because "regardless of whether there is a final determination [by a relevant agency] or is a question of whether there's a final determination, those both are appropriate for the Indiana Tax Court." (Tr., Vol. II, pg. 4.)

         [¶5] On September 4, 2018, the trial court issued an order dismissing the complaints "with prejudice." Appealed Order at 1. On October 4, 2018, the Homeowners Associations filed a motion to correct error. On the following day, the trial court denied the motion to correct error. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         Standard of Review

Trial Rule 12(B)(1) addresses the "[l]ack of jurisdiction over the subject matter." In reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Trial Rule 12(B)(1), the relevant question is whether the type of claim presented falls within the general scope of the authority conferred upon the court by constitution or statute. Robertson v. Anonymous Clinic, 63 N.E.3d 349, 356 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016), trans. denied. A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction presents a threshold question with respect to a court's power to act. Id. "The standard of review for a trial court's grant or denial of a 12(B)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is 'a function of what occurred in the trial court.'" Berry v. Crawford, 990 N.E.2d 410, 414 (Ind. 2013) (citing GKN Co. v. Magness, 744 N.E.2d 397, 401 (Ind. 2001)), reh'g denied. Where the facts before the trial court are not in dispute, the question of subject matter jurisdiction is one of law, and we review the trial court's ruling de novo. Id. … In an appeal from a trial court's grant of a pretrial motion to dismiss under Trial Rule 12(B)(1), we accept as true the facts alleged in the complaint. State ex rel. Zoeller v. Aisin USA Mfg., Inc., 946 N.E.2d 1148, 1149-50 (Ind. 2011), reh'g denied.

Metz as Next Friend of Metz v. Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, 115 N.E.3d 489, 493-94 ...


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