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Court Park Co. v. County of Hennepin

Supreme Court of Minnesota

February 14, 2018

Court Park Company, et al., Respondents,
v.
County of Hennepin, Relator.

         Tax Court Office of Appellate Courts

          Kay Nord Hunt, Michael R. Moline, Lommen Abdo, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondents.

          Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Jane N.B. Holzer, Rebecca Holschuh, Assistant County Attorneys, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for relator.

         SYLLABUS

         1. When determining whether a petitioning taxpayer has produced evidence sufficient to overcome the statutory presumption that a property tax assessment is valid, the tax court may consider only the evidence presented by the taxpayer.

         2. The tax court did not abuse its discretion in denying the County's motion to dismiss by holding, in the alternative, that the evidence presented by the taxpayer overcame the statutory presumption.

          OPINION

          LILLEHAUG, Justice.

         Respondents Court Park Company and Camir II, LLC ("the taxpayer") contested relator Hennepin County's ("the County") assessment of the fair market value of the taxpayer's parking ramp. At the close of the taxpayer's case-in-chief, the County moved to dismiss. The tax court deferred ruling on the County's motion. After both parties' cases were fully presented, the tax court denied the County's motion, basing its decision on evidence presented in the County's case. On certiorari, we are asked to determine on what evidence the tax court may rely in deciding whether the taxpayer has overcome the presumptive validity of the County's assessment. Because the relevant law permits only the taxpayer's evidence to be considered, we conclude that the tax court erred in considering the County's evidence to decide the motion. Nevertheless, because the tax court did not abuse its discretion by holding in the alternative that the taxpayer's evidence overcame the presumptive validity of the assessment, we affirm.

         FACTS

         This case is about the fair market value of a parking ramp located next to Hennepin County Medical Center in downtown Minneapolis. In 2014, the County assessed the parking ramp's value at $8, 429, 800. In 2015, it assessed the value at $9, 323, 200. The taxpayer appealed both assessments to the tax court.[1]

         At trial, the tax court received into evidence an appraisal report and testimony from the taxpayer's expert, Daniel Boris. Appraiser Boris opined that the value of the parking ramp was $5, 775, 000 in 2014 and $6, 000, 000 in 2015.

         At the close of the taxpayer's case, the County moved to dismiss under Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 41.02, [2] arguing that the taxpayer had "failed to overcome the prima facie validity of the assessment." The parties agreed that a decision on the County's motion should be decided post-trial, and thus, the trial continued, with the presiding judge taking testimony "subject to the County's motion."

         The County then called Brian Kieser, the chief appraiser for the City of Minneapolis Assessor's Office, to testify. He opined that the value of the parking ramp was $8, 000, 000 in 2014 and $8, 900, 000 in 2015. Notably, these values were each approximately $400, 000 less than the County's assessment. Kieser's appraisal report was admitted into evidence.

         The tax court issued a combined order that (1) denied the County's motion to dismiss, (2) determined the market value of the parking ramp as of 2014 and 2015, and (3) ordered a judgment in favor of the taxpayer. The court denied the County's motion "because when viewing all of the evidence, and thereby considering the County's appraisal report, there is substantial evidence that the market value of the subject property was less than its assessed value." Court Park Co. v. County of Hennepin, 27-CV-15-07133, 2017 WL 1750326, at *4 (Minn. T.C. May 3, 2017). In a footnote, the court provided an alternative ground for denying the County's motion, noting that even if it had considered only the evidence introduced during the taxpayer's case-in-chief-primarily Boris's opinion-the taxpayer's evidence was sufficient to overcome the presumption that the assessment was correct. Id. at *4 n.22. Only after the court ...


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