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MEI Investments, L.P. v. Dallas County

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

April 2, 2019

MEI INVESTMENTS, L.P., Appellant
v.
DALLAS COUNTY, CITY OF SEAGOVILLE, DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, DALLAS COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT, DALLAS COUNTY SCHOOL EQUALIZATION FUND, AND PARKLAND HOSPITAL DISTRICT, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 101st Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. TX-15-02041

          Before Justices Bridges, Partida-Kipness, and Carlyle

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBBIE PARTIDA-KIPNESS JUSTICE

         MEI Investments, L.P. appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of various taxing entities. The appeal involves facts and legal issues related to those in MEI Investments, L.P. v. Dallas Cty., et al., No. 05-18-00197-CV (Tex. App.-Dallas April 2, 2019, no pet. h.) also decided today. In five issues, appellant generally contends (1) the trial court erred in admitting the affidavit of its principal into evidence, (2) the presumption under section 33.47(a) of the Texas Property Tax Code cannot be applied to it, and (3) the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court's judgment. For the reasons set forth below and expressed in MEI Investments, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Dallas County, City of Seagoville, Dallas Independent School District, Dallas County Community College District, Dallas County School Equalization Fund, and Parkland Hospital District filed suit against Public Autos, Ltd. d/b/a Public Auto Sales (Public Autos) for delinquent ad valorem property taxes for tax year 2014 and subsequent years which might later become due. Attached to the petition as Exhibit "A" was a delinquent tax statement with the heading "George Carol E, 908 S. Buckner Blvd, Dallas, TX 75217-4505" and listing taxes on "Personal Property Public Auto Sales, 1105 N. U.S. Hwy 175."

         In their second amended petition, the taxing entities added appellant as a defendant in the lawsuit. According to Public Autos' pleadings, appellant purchased Public Autos' property "including personal property that is the subject of the taxes in this lawsuit." Appellant filed a general denial answer and a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied. At the bench trial on their claims, the taxing entities presented no live witness testimony and instead relied on certified copies of delinquent property tax statements, assumed name certificates and other public documents pertaining to Public Autos, an affidavit of appellant's principal, Hussein K. Mahrouq, as well as the official records of the Dallas Central Appraisal District.[1] Appellant did not present any evidence on its behalf. At the conclusion of the trial, the trial judge rendered judgment against both Public Autos and appellant for $18, 591.43 together with applicable penalties and interest.[2]This appeal ensued.

          ANALYSIS

         A. Admissibility of Affidavit

         In its first issue, appellant challenges the trial court's admission of the affidavit of its principal, Hussein K. Mahrouq. The taxing entities offered Mahrouq's affidavit and attachments to support their claim that appellant purchased the personal property on which the tax liability in this case was based. Appellant first submitted Mahrouq's affidavit to the Court in support of its own summary judgment motion. At trial, however, appellant objected to the affidavit on the grounds that affidavits are not allowed as evidence in contested proceedings unless permitted by statute or rule. The trial court overruled the objection and admitted the affidavit and attachments into evidence.

         In relevant part, the Mahrouq affidavit stated:

3. I was familiar with an automobile business which had existed for many years in Dallas known as Public Auto Sales ("Public Auto"). . . .
7. MEI purchased the following assets of Public Auto:
a. Real property with the address of 908 S. Buckner Blvd, Dallas, Texas. A true and correct copy of the February 3, 2015 contract for this property is attached hereto as Exhibit "1."
b. Real property with the address of 905, 915 and 925 S. Buckner Blvd, Dallas, Texas, as well as certain machinery, office equipment and service vehicles described on Exhibit D to the contract and intellectual property rights described on an Addendum to the contract. A true and correct copy of the March 25, ...

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