Southlake Ind., LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, Supreme Court Case No. 21S-TA-239

Docket NºSupreme Court Case No. 21S-TA-239
Citation174 N.E.3d 177
Case DateSeptember 22, 2021
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

174 N.E.3d 177

SOUTHLAKE INDIANA, LLC, Petitioner,
v.
LAKE COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent.

Supreme Court Case No. 21S-TA-239

Supreme Court of Indiana.

Argued: June 23, 2021
Filed: September 22, 2021


ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER: David A. Suess, Benjamin A. Blair, Brian J. Paul, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana

ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: Brian A. Cusimano, Indianapolis, Indiana, Marilyn S. Meighen, Carmel, Indiana

Slaughter, Justice.

This case concerns the assessment of commercial real property in Lake County. In 2014, the assessor increased a mall's property-tax assessment for that tax year and issued notices increasing the assessments for the three prior tax years. The new assessed values were more than double the prior years’ assessments. We hold that when a property's assessment increases by more than five percent over the previous year and the Indiana Board of Tax Review finds neither party's assessment correct, a statutory clause requires that the assessment reverts to the assessment for the prior tax year.

I

The Ross Township assessor in Lake County increased the tax assessment for Southlake Mall, owned by Southlake Indiana, LLC, for the 2014 tax year. The assessor also issued notices changing the property-tax assessments for tax years 2011, 2012, and 2013. The new assessed values were about $240 million each year—more than double the 2010 assessment, and the original 2011 through 2013 assessments, of roughly $110 million. Southlake appealed the assessments for tax years 2011 to 2013 to the Lake County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals, which denied the appeals. Southlake then appealed to the Indiana Board of Tax Review. While those appeals were pending, Southlake also appealed the 2014 assessment. All four tax-year appeals went before the state board.

The state board held a hearing at which both the Lake County assessor and Southlake presented professional appraisers’ testimony. The assessor's appraiser valued the mall in a range from about $239 million to $256 million for the years 2011 to 2014. Southlake's appraiser valued the mall, for the same years, between about $98 million and $146 million. The state board found deficiencies in both experts’ assessments. Making the adjustments it found warranted, the state board assessed the mall at the following approximate values:

• Tax year 2011: $173.5 million;

• Tax year 2012: $180.4 million;

• Tax year 2013: $179.4 million; and

• Tax year 2014: $190.6 million.

Southlake appealed to the Indiana Tax Court, which affirmed in part and remanded in part. Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor , 160 N.E.3d 1156, 1159 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2020). The tax court affirmed the state board in all respects, except for a pair of reimbursements not at issue here. Id. at 1178. Southlake sought review, which we granted. Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor , 168 N.E.3d 738 (Ind. 2021).

174 N.E.3d 179

II

Southlake argues on review that the tax court (and state board, too) erred by not applying the reversionary clause in Indiana Code section 6-1.1-15-17.2(b). Although the parties agree that section 17.2 governs here, they disagree about whether its reversionary clause was triggered when the state board did not adopt either party's assessed values. Because the tax court's opinion turns upon the plain meaning of an unambiguous statute, we review its decision de novo. Garner v. Kempf , 93 N.E.3d 1091, 1094 (Ind. 2018).

Section 17.2(b) begins by setting out the shifting burdens between the assessor and the taxpayer in a tax review or appeal:

Under this section, the county assessor or township assessor making the assessment has the burden of proving that the assessment is correct in any review or appeal under this chapter and in any appeals taken to the Indiana board of tax review or to the Indiana tax court. If a county assessor or township assessor fails to meet the burden of proof under this section, the taxpayer may introduce evidence to prove the correct assessment.

Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2(b). Relevant here,...

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4 practice notes
  • Southlake Ind., LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 19T-TA-00022
    • United States
    • Indiana Tax Court of Indiana
    • December 13, 2021
    ...reviewing authority. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2(a), (b) (2021) (emphases added). See also Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 174 N.E.3d 177, 178-81 (Ind. 2021) (explaining the burden of proof under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2 with respect to Southlake's appeals of the Mall's 201......
  • Southlake Ind., LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, Case No. 19T-TA-00022
    • United States
    • Indiana Tax Court of Indiana
    • December 13, 2021
    ...reviewing authority. IND. CODE § 6-1.1-15-17.2(a), (b) (2021) (emphases added). See also Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 174 N.E.3d 177, 178-81 (Ind. 2021) (explaining the burden of proof under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2 with respect to Southlake's appeals of the Mall's 201......
  • Riley-Roberts Park, LP v. O'Connor, Cause No. 21T-TA-00024
    • United States
    • Indiana Tax Court of Indiana
    • March 18, 2022
    ...corporations and Riley-Roberts is a for-profit limited partnership. See, e.g., Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 174 N.E.3d 177, 179 (Ind. 2021) ("When interpreting a statute, [courts should] start with its clear and unambiguous meaning and apply its terms in their plain, ordin......
  • Riley-Roberts Park, LP v. O'Connor, 21T-TA-00024
    • United States
    • Indiana Tax Court of Indiana
    • March 18, 2022
    ...corporations and Riley-Roberts is a for-profit limited partnership. See, e.g., Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 174 N.E.3d 177, 179 (Ind. 2021) ("When interpreting a statute, [courts should] start with its clear and unambiguous meaning and apply its terms in their plain, ordin......
4 cases
  • Southlake Ind., LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 19T-TA-00022
    • United States
    • Indiana Tax Court of Indiana
    • December 13, 2021
    ...reviewing authority. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2(a), (b) (2021) (emphases added). See also Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 174 N.E.3d 177, 178-81 (Ind. 2021) (explaining the burden of proof under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2 with respect to Southlake's appeals of the Mall's 201......
  • Southlake Ind., LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, Case No. 19T-TA-00022
    • United States
    • Indiana Tax Court of Indiana
    • December 13, 2021
    ...reviewing authority. IND. CODE § 6-1.1-15-17.2(a), (b) (2021) (emphases added). See also Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 174 N.E.3d 177, 178-81 (Ind. 2021) (explaining the burden of proof under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2 with respect to Southlake's appeals of the Mall's 201......
  • Riley-Roberts Park, LP v. O'Connor, Cause No. 21T-TA-00024
    • United States
    • Indiana Tax Court of Indiana
    • March 18, 2022
    ...corporations and Riley-Roberts is a for-profit limited partnership. See, e.g., Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 174 N.E.3d 177, 179 (Ind. 2021) ("When interpreting a statute, [courts should] start with its clear and unambiguous meaning and apply its terms in their plain, ordin......
  • Riley-Roberts Park, LP v. O'Connor, 21T-TA-00024
    • United States
    • Indiana Tax Court of Indiana
    • March 18, 2022
    ...corporations and Riley-Roberts is a for-profit limited partnership. See, e.g., Southlake Indiana, LLC v. Lake Cnty. Assessor, 174 N.E.3d 177, 179 (Ind. 2021) ("When interpreting a statute, [courts should] start with its clear and unambiguous meaning and apply its terms in their plain, ordin......

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