ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONERS: ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT:
PAUL F. LINDEMANN STEVE CARTER
KRIEG DEVAULT LLP ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA
Indianapolis, IN Indianapolis, IN
LINDA I. VILLEGAS
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
INDIANA TAX COURT
PAUL F. AND JANET R. LINDEMANN, )
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-0204-TA-39
J. BARRY WOOD, ASSESSOR OF )
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, MARION )
ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION
OF THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW
December 8, 2003
The Petitioners, Paul F. and Janet R. Lindemann (Lindemanns), appeal the Indiana Board
of Tax Reviews (Indiana Board) final determination valuing their real property for the
2000 tax year. Though the Lindemanns raise multiple issues on appeal, the
dispositive issue in this case is whether the Washington Township Assessor is estopped
from raising the grade of the Lindemanns property under the principles of res
For the reasons stated below, the Court REVERSES and REMANDS the final determination
of the Indiana Board.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The Lindemanns own a house in Marion County, Indiana. For the 1995
general reassessment, the Washington Township Assessor (Assessor) assigned the Lindemanns home a grade
factor of B+2. On January 3, 1996, the Lindemanns filed a
Form 130 Petition for Review of Assessment (Form 130) with the Marion County
Board of Review (BOR) alleging that the B+2 grade factor assigned to their
property was too high. On October 25, 1996, the BOR denied the
Lindemanns appeal. The Lindemanns appealed the BORs denial to the State Board
of Tax Commissioners (State Board). While the appeal was pending with the
State Board, the BOR issued a second determination in which it reduced the
grade factor of the Lindemanns home to B-1.
On December 15, 2000, nearly three years after their original appeal, the
Assessor sent the Lindemanns a Form 11 Notice of Assessment (Form 11) indicating
that the grade of their house had been raised from B-1 to B+2
for the 2000 tax year. The Form 11 explained that the increase
was based on a comparison of grades with other homes in the Lindemanns
The Lindemanns appealed their assessment to the Marion County Property Tax Assessment Board
of Appeals (PTABOA). The PTABOA affirmed the B+2 grade increase.
On May 14, 2001, the Lindemanns appealed to the State Board. The
State Board held a hearing on August 8, 2001. On March 15,
2002, the Indiana Board
issued a final determination, affirming the PTABOAs decision.
The Lindemanns initiated an original tax appeal on April 15, 2002, arguing that
based on their successful 1996 appeal, the Assessor cannot raise their grade again.
This Court heard the parties oral arguments on June 30, 2003.
Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.
ANALYSIS AND OPINION
Standard of Review
This Court gives great deference to final determinations of the Indiana Board when
it acts within the scope of its authority. Miller Vill. Prop. Co.,
LLP v. Indiana Bd. of Tax Review, 779 N.E.2d 986, 988 (Ind. Tax
Ct. 2002), review denied. Consequently, the Court may reverse a final determination
of the Indiana Board only if it is:
(1) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law;
(2) contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity;
(3) in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory jurisdiction,
authority, or limitations;
(4) without observance of procedure required by law; or
(5) unsupported by substantial or reliable evidence.
Ind. Code § 33-3-5-14.8(e)(1)-(5)(West Supp. 2003).
The Lindemanns argue that given their successful appeal before the BOR in 1996,
the Assessor is now estopped, under the principles of res judicata, from raising
their grade to B+2 before the next general reassessment
See footnote absent a change in
circumstances. The Court agrees.
Res judicata, or collateral estoppel, is applicable when an issue has been adjudicated
but arises again in a separate, subsequent suit between the same parties.
Glass Wholesalers, Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 568 N.E.2d 1116, 1123
(Ind. Tax Ct. 1991)(citing Watson Rural Water Co. v. Indiana Cities Water Corp.,
540 N.E.2d 131, 135 (Ind. Ct. App. 1989)). Principles of res judicata
can be applied to certain administrative proceedings. See South Bend Fedn of
Teachers v. Natl Educ. Assn of South Bend, 389 N.E.2d 23, 33-34
(Ind. Ct. App. 1979). To determine whether an administrative decision should bar
or estop a subsequent cause of action, the following factors should be considered:
the issues sought to be estopped are within the statutory jurisdiction of the
the agency acts in a judicial capacity;
both parties have a fair opportunity to litigate the issues; and
the decision of the administrative tribunal could be appealed to a judicial tribunal.
Glass Wholesalers, 568 N.E.2d at 1123-24 (internal citation omitted).
With respect to the Lindemanns initial appeal to the BOR in 1996, these
factors have been met. Indeed, the BOR possessed the statutory jurisdiction to
hear the Lindemanns appeal. See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-1(a).
See footnote The
BOR acted in a judicial capacity by providing notice to the parties, taking
evidence and testimony, and rendering a decision.
See Ind. Code §
6-1.1-15-1(g), (i), (j). Both the Lindemanns and the Assessor had the opportunity
to present evidence to the BOR and either could have appealed the 1996
decision to the State Board, and ultimately, this Court. See Ind.
Code § 6-1.1-15-1(g)(1),(2); Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-3(a),(b), Ind. Code § 33-3-5-2. Thus,
the BORs 1996 determination of a B-1 grade bars any subsequent litigation on
the same cause of action by the same parties until the next general
reassessment, absent any changed circumstances.
The principles of res judicata hold that:
Absent a change in conditions or circumstances, [an administrative body] should not indiscriminately
or repeatedly consider the same evidence and announce a contrary finding. [Res
judicata] seek[s] to guard parties against vexatious and repetitious litigation of issues which
have been determined in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding.
Shortridge v. Review Bd. of Indiana Employment Sec. Div., 498 N.E.2d 82, 90
(Ind. Ct. App. 1986). In this case, the Assessor has ignored the
previous decision of a reviewing authority, thereby forcing the Lindemanns to return to
the administrative appeals process to reargue the petition they successfully presented three years
previous. Repetitious proceedings such as this are unacceptable. CONCLUSION
Absent a change of circumstances in the Lindemanns improvement that warrants a grade
increase, the 1996 B-1 grade determination should remain effective until the next general
For the foregoing reasons, the Indiana Boards final determination is REVERSED and REMANDED
to instruct the local assessing officials to reinstate the B-1 grade until there
is either a change in the subject propertys circumstances or a general reassessment.
The Form 11 notice merely stated that [the Assessor] changed [the] grade
in accordance with rest of nbhd (sic). (Cert. Admin. R. at 73.)
No additional explanation was provided.
Footnote: The State Board of Tax Commissioners was abolished by the legislature as
of December 31, 2001. 2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 119(b)(2). In
its stead, the Indiana Board of Tax Review (Indiana Board) was created.
Ind. Code § 6-1.5-1-3 (West Supp. 2003)(eff. 1-1-02); 2001 Ind. Acts 198 §
95. Consequently, when a final determination was issued on the Lindemanns appeal,
it was issued by the Indiana Board.
The Lindemanns initially moved for summary judgment on the basis that
the grade increase was arbitrary and capricious because the Assessor did not inspect
the interior of their house prior to the change. The Court denied
that motion. See Paul F. and Janet R. Lindemann v. J. Barry Wood,
Assessor of Washington Twp., Marion Co., No. 49T10-0204-TA-39 (Ind. Tax Ct. Dec. 12,
2002) (order denying motion for summary judgment).
All real property in Indiana is assessed during a general
Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-4(a). Property values assigned in the general
reassessment are carried forward from year to year until the next general reassessment.
See Wetzel Enters., Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 694 N.E.2d
1259, 1260, fn. 3 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998). Nevertheless, assessing officials may
assess or reassess real property between general reassessments provided a taxpayer is given
sufficient notice and opportunity to rebut any proposed changes. See Ind. Code
§ 6-1.1-4-22; see also Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-30. Interim assessments are made
to reflect changes to the property that may increase or decrease the assessment
value. See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-25.
The legislature transferred the authority and duties of the local Boards of
Review (BOR) to their successors, the local Property Tax Assessment Board(s) of Appeal.
See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-13-1. Therefore, any decision meeting the
above criteria taken by a BOR previously, or a PTABOA currently, could have
a binding res judicata effect.
The holding in this case does not conflict with the principle that
each tax year stands alone, to be assessed separately.
See, e.g., Glass
Wholesalers, Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 568 N.E.2d 1116, 1124 (Ind.
Tax Ct. 1991). As stated previously, a real property assessment valuation rolls
from year to year unless there is a change to the property justifying
an interim reassessment. See footnote 4, supra. The record in this
case does not indicate any change to the property between 1996 and 2000.
Rather, the interim grade increase was a based on factors unrelated to
the Lindemanns improvement - the grade assignments on other homes in their neighborhood.
(See Oral Argument Tr. at 3); (See also Cert. Admin. R. at