Gonzales v. Dallas Cnty. Appraisal Dist., No. 05-13-01658-CV, 2015 Tex. App. LEXIS 6325 (Tex. App.—Dallas June 23, 2015, no pet.)
Prior to 2009, Gonzales owned two tracts of property in Dallas County. In 2009, Gonzales transferred title to the property to Lenola Corporation (“Lenola”), a corporation in which she was a shareholder. In 2013, Gonzales filed suit against the Dallas County Appraisal District (“DCAD”), the Dallas County Appraisal Review Board (the “ARB”), and a neighboring property owner, Lyons Equities, Inc. (“Lyons”). Gonzales challenged the appraisal of the two tracts as unequally appraised by DCAD, and asserted claims of undue influence by Lyons against DCAD and the ARB under the penal code. In her petition, Gonzales alleged that she owned the two tracts. DCAD, the ARB, and Lyons filed pleas to the jurisdiction, arguing that the trial court did not have jurisdiction because Gonzales did not own the property and lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. Lyons also moved to dismiss on the basis that Gonzales’s claims against it had no basis in law or fact. Gonzales filed an amended petition stating that the plaintiff was “Gonzales derivatively on behalf of Lenola,” but the amended petition did not mention Lenola elsewhere and continued to allege Gonzales’s ownership of the property. The trial court dismissed all claims and awarded attorney’s fees to Lyons. Gonzales appealed.
The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The court of appeals agreed that Gonzales lacked standing because she did not own the property. Her lack of standing deprived the trial court of jurisdiction over her valuation claims against DCAD and the ARB, as well as her claims against Lyons. The court of appeals rejected Gonzales’s claim that she was entitled to sue under the assumed name of Lenola since she owned 100% of verified stocks. The court of appeals stated that a corporation is a separate legal entity from its shareholder, even if a shareholder owns all of the stock. The court of appeals further held that Gonzales’s suit was not a derivative action on behalf of Lenola because the petition did not contain the requisite allegations, such as an allegation that Gonzales was a beneficial owner of shares at the time of the appraisal assessment. Finally, the court of appeals held that the claims against Lyons were properly dismissed because any alleged harm was experienced by Lenola, not Gonzales, and because any influence exerted by Lyons only concerned the appraisal of Lyons’ property.