Estate of Smith v. Ector Cnty. Appraisal Dist., 480 S.W.3d 796 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2015, pet. filed)
At issue in this case was which party, the property owner or the appraisal district, bore the burden of proof on the property owner’s claim that its property was not assessed uniformly and equally.
Appellant, the Estate of Marvin L. Smith, filed suit against the Ector County Appraisal District (“Ector CAD”) in district court after protesting its property tax assessment administratively and obtaining an Appraisal Review Board order. Appellant claimed that its appraised value was not uniform and equal as required by Texas Property Tax Code § 42.26. Both parties filed no evidence motions for summary judgment, although neither party filed a response to the other’s motion or provided any summary judgment evidence. After a hearing, the trial court granted Ector CAD’s motion for summary judgment and denied Appellant’s motion for summary judgment. Appellant appealed to the court of appeals, claiming that the trial court erred because Ector CAD bore the burden of proof to establish that the assessment was equal.
The court of appeals acknowledged that Tax Code § 41.43 places the burden of proof, by clear and convincing evidence, on the appraisal district in proceedings before the appraisal review board. However, the court also noted that the Tax Code is silent on who bears the burden of proof in Chapter 42, the chapter governing judicial appeals. The court reasoned that the legislature could have used similar language to that in § 41.43 if it intended to place the burden of proof on an appraisal district in a judicial appeal. Relying on Tax Code § 42.23’s directive that district courts try issues “in the manner applicable to civil suits generally,” the court of appeals concluded that the Appellant property owner, as the party seeking affirmative relief, had the burden of proof to establish its claim.