Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont
PAMELA K. LINDSEY, BRANDON D. LUNN, HELEN C. LUNN, BRADLEY CROSBY, ROY D. BERNHEISEL, SUE BERNHEISEL, LESTER GOEKLER, CASSANDRA D. LUCHAK, JEFF FISHER, MONTE J. EAGLESON, TAMMY B. EAGLESON, ESTATE OF RUBY ATKINSON C/O SHIRLEY KNOTT, DONALD KLOESEL, MOSES MAESTAS, JAQUELYN MAESTAS, THOMAS W. SCOTT AND CYNTHIA M. SCOTT, Appellants
MONTGOMERY CENTRAL APPRAISAL DISTRICT, Appellee
Submitted on November 19, 2018
Appeal from the 284th District Court Montgomery County, Texas
Trial Cause No. 13-10-11170-CV
McKeithen, C.J., Kreger, and Johnson, JJ.
CHARLES KREGER JUSTICE.
K. Lindsey, Brandon D. Lunn, Helen C. Lunn, Bradley Crosby,
Roy D. Bernheisel, Sue Bernheisel, Lester Goekler, Cassandra
D. Luchak, Jeff Fisher, Monte J. Eagleson, Tammy B. Eagleson,
Estate of Ruby Atkinson c/o Shirley Knott, Donald Kloesel,
Moses Maestas, Jaqueline Maestas, Thomas W. Scott and Cynthia
M. Scott ("Appellants") alleged Montgomery Central
Appraisal District ("MCAD") unequally appraised
their properties in Montgomery County pursuant to the Texas
Tax Code ("Code"). Appellants protested the
appraisals in hearings before the Appraisal Review Board
("ARB"). See Tex. Tax Code Ann. §
41.41 (West 2015). Dissatisfied with the results of the ARB
hearings, they appealed by filing a petition in Montgomery
County District Court. See Tex. Tax Code Ann.
§§ 42.01; 42.21 (West 2015). The trial court
granted MCAD's plea to the jurisdiction. Appellants
appeal the trial court's order granting the plea and
dismissing their claims. We reverse and remand.
owned properties in Montgomery County, Texas. They
specifically allege that MCAD appraised their properties
unequally for tax year 2013. See Tex. Tax Code Ann.
§ 42.26 (West 2015). Appellants protested MCAD's
appraised valuations, and the ARB conducted protest hearings
in July 2013. Appellants subsequently filed a petition in
district court likewise complaining about the appraised
values of their properties for tax year 2013, alleging MCAD
violated the Code and Texas Constitution "by appraising
Plaintiffs' propert[ies] excessively and unequally."
complained in their original petition that MCAD
"arbitrarily and capriciously appraised Plaintiffs'
properties excessively, unequally[, ] and disproportionately
as compared to other properties in the County."
Appellants further alleged that "[a]ll conditions to
Plaintiffs' rights of judicial appeal of [MCAD]'s
appraisal of Plaintiffs' properties and the ARB's
actions have occurred and Plaintiffs are entitled to bring
this action and to trial de novo of [MCAD]'s
actions and the [ARB's] proceedings." The relief
requested by Appellants included setting the appraised values
of their properties below the final value given by the ARB,
compelling the imposition of the proper appraised value of
their properties "due to their values or due to unequal
appraisal," the granting of hearings or other relief
entitled through the administrative protest provisions,
injunctive relief or "other appropriate relief,"
and costs and attorney's fees.
filed special exceptions to Plaintiffs' Original Petition
complaining that Plaintiffs allegations were vague and failed
to state an allowable cause of action under the Tax Code. The
language MCAD specially excepted to in Plaintiffs'
petition complained of an illegal tax plan and scheme which
violates the Code and the Texas Constitution by unequally
appraising property in the County. Plaintiffs pleaded that
MCAD appraised Plaintiffs' property excessively and
unequally. The trial court entered an agreed order sustaining
MCAD's special exceptions and requiring Appellants to
amend their petition and replead with specificity.
thereafter filed their first amended original petition
asserting the trial court had jurisdiction of their claims
pursuant to Chapters 23, 41, and 42 of the Code. The amended
petition again contained allegations that MCAD
"arbitrarily and capriciously appraised Plaintiffs'
properties unequally and disproportionately as compared to
other properties in the County." It specifically cited
sections 42.26(a)(1) and (2) of the Code as providing
remedies for unequal appraisal. In the same paragraph,
Appellants also asserted the "properties are unequally
appraised in accordance with Section 42.26 based upon an
appraisal ratio analysis that is common to all
Plaintiffs." The relief requested by Appellants in their
first amended original petition was substantially similar to
the relief requested in their original petition, with the
exception of omitting injunctive relief.
response, MCAD supplemented its pleadings and asserted that
the trial court did not have jurisdiction over
Appellants' claims that the properties were unequally
appraised under section 42.26(a)(3) of the Tax Code, because
Appellants effectively voluntarily dismissed those claims
when they omitted them from their amended petition. MCAD
argued the court's order on special exceptions required
Appellants to "replead, with specificity, causes of
action." It argued that although Appellants specifically
cited to sections 42.26(a)(1) and (2) in the amended
petition, they did not cite section 42.26(a)(3) of the Code.
In its plea to the jurisdiction, MCAD further argued
Appellants failed to invoke the trial court's
jurisdiction regarding their claims under sections
42.26(a)(1) and (2) of the Tax Code, because Appellants filed
protests over the appraised value of the subject properties
pursuant to section 41.41 of the Tax Code but failed to
present the ARB with evidence or claims the properties were
unequally appraised under sections 42.26(a)(1) and (2) of the
Tax Code. MCAD argued that the judicial appeal may only
address issues protested and raised in a motion to the ARB.
In its brief in support of its plea to the jurisdiction, MCAD
attached evidence submitted by the Appellants during the
protest hearings and the audio recordings of the
a hearing on the plea to the jurisdiction, the trial court
entered an order sustaining the plea and dismissed
Appellants' claims without prejudice. The trial
court's order contained the following findings:
1. The only evidence or argument Plaintiffs presented to the
Appraisal Review Board pertained to the unequal appraisal
values of their residential properties as compared to other
2. Plaintiffs' First Amended Petition is the live
pleading before the Court, and Plaintiffs plead that their
residential properties are unequally appraised when compared
to the appraisal of commercial properties.
3. Plaintiffs' property is residential in use, and, as
such, is not comparable to commercial property.
4. Plaintiffs presented no evidence or argument to the
Appraisal Review Board about the unequal and excessive
appraisal values of their residential properties as compared
to the appraisal values of commercial properties.
5. Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies
before the Appraisal Review Board as to all claims they are
making in this suit.
appeal, Appellants present two issues asking: (1) whether the
trial court erred in dismissing the case for failure to
exhaust administrative remedies; and (2) asking whether the
trial court erred in dismissing the case for amending certain
claims or causes of action out of the case. In response to
Appellants' issues, MCAD asserts they failed to exhaust
their remedies, and ...