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Daily Court Reporter - News Supreme Court of Ohio heard three oral arguments on Wednesday, February 14th, including a dispute over whether a shared parking lot can be included in a stores tax valuation

 

Supreme Court of Ohio heard three oral arguments on Wednesday, February 14th, including a dispute over whether a shared parking lot can be included in a stores tax valuation

Dan Trevas, Supreme Court of Ohio

The Ohio Supreme Court heard three oral arguments on Wednesday, February 14th, including a challenge brought by a grocery store that claims the state tax appeal board inappropriately added the value of a parking lot not owned by the store to its tax valuation.

Summaries Available

Below is a summary of the three arguments heard Wednesday. Along with the descriptions in this article, the Office of Public Information has released in-depth summaries of the cases available online at: http://www.courtnewsohio.gov/cases/previews/default.asp#.Wn25cOdG2Uk

Worthington City Schools Board of Education et. al. v. Franklin County Board of Revision et. al., Case no. 2017-0003

Ohio Board of Tax Appeals

ISSUES:

Was the adjustment by a grocery store’s appraiser properly made to adjust for physical differences between the store’s property and properties with comparable sales?

Did the Board of Tax Appeals fail to value the store property’s fee simple interest, as if unencumbered?

Did the Board of Tax Appeals’ decision impermissibly require the store to pay property tax on a parking lot not owned by the store?

BACKGROUND:

The Franklin County auditor valued a Kroger grocery store in Worthington at $3 million for tax year 2014. The retail store sits on 1.699 acres, which doesn’t include a parking lot. To provide parking to customers, the Kroger Company entered an agreement with the owner of the parking lot in front of the store for a voluntary easement that gave Kroger the non-exclusive right to use the shared lot.

Kroger filed a complaint with Franklin County Board of Revision, arguing for a reduction in the auditor’s $3 million valuation. The Worthington City School District Board of Education submitted a counter-complaint asking to retain the auditor’s valuation of the property for tax purposes.

At a hearing before the board of revision, an appraiser for the grocery store placed the property’s taxable value at $2.39 million. The appraiser looked at sales of comparable retail outlets. Noting the Kroger property’s low land-to-building ratio because the parking lot isn’t part of the property, the appraiser calculated an adjustment to the comparable property values to account for that fact. The school board’s appraiser determined, however, that the property’s value was between $4.9 million and $5 million, and rejected the reduction made by the store’s appraiser.

In February 2016, the board of revision accepted the store appraiser’s valuation, reducing the property’s taxable value to $2.39 million.

The school board appealed the decision to the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA). The BTA ruled in December 2016 that the adjustment made by the store’s appraiser was improper and determined the property’s value for taxes was $3.95 million.

Kroger appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court in January 2017. At that time, the law gave parties a right to appeal BTA rulings to the Supreme Court, which was mandated to hear the cases. The Court’s rules provided for oral argument either to a master commissioner or the full court. Kroger requested argument before the full court, which was granted.

State of Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation v. Loretta M. Verlinger, et al., Case no. 2017-0102

Ninth District Court of Appeals (Summit County)

ISSUES:

Must an injured worker who was denied workers’ compensation benefits notify the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) of a settlement with the person causing the injury if the worker is appealing the denial of benefits?

Under R.C. RC. 4123.931 does BWC have subrogation rights to recover medical payments made for an injured worker if at the time of the settlement the bureau had not paid any benefits?

For the purposes of R.C. 4123.931, is the bureau of workers compensation notified of a proposed settlement if the injured workers reports to the bureau the names of the parties involved in the accident and their insurance companies?

BACKGROUND:

Loretta Verlinger was employed at her husband’s business Together Leather in Northfield. On Aug. 1, 2011, Verlinger was riding with her husband on a motorcycle when she was struck by a car driven by Suzanne Wolke. The accident occurred around 7 p.m. Verlinger told investigators the store closed at 7 p.m. and she was on her way to a customer’s home to sew couch cushions.

Verlinger suffered severe injuries to her leg. She was life-flighted from the accident scene to hospital, where she spent seven days recovering from surgery. She then spent about three weeks at a nursing home. On August 17, Verlinger filed a claim with BWC seeking coverage for medical payments and lost wages, stating that the accident occurred during the course of employment. A BWC representative contacted her the next day and discussed the accident with Verlinger. BWC also obtained an accident report from the Sagamore Hills Police Department that cited Wolke, and Wolke admitted to causing the accident. The bureau obtained the names of both parties’ insurers, and also the name and address of the customer Verlinger was supposedly on her way to see.

On Sept. 2, BWC denied Verlinger’s claim, stating there was no proof Verlinger had an appointment or was on her way to an appointment with a customer. Verlinger appealed her claim to the Ohio Industrial Commission. Verlinger also filed a lawsuit against Wolke’s insurance company, Metropolitan General Property and Casualty Insurance, and her insurer, Foremost Property and Casualty Insurance. On Dec. 15, while her appeal was still pending, Verlinger settled for $250,000 with the insurance companies, and she did notify the bureau of the settlement. A week after the settlement, the Industrial Commission overturned the BWC denial and found Verlinger was entitled to BWC payments.

In July 2103, BWC sued Verlinger, Metropolitan, and Foremost in Summit County Common Pleas Court. The bureau argued that under Ohio’s “recovery statute” (R.C. 4123.931), the three violated the subrogation provisions of the law by not notifying the bureau of payments. It argued that the law allowed BWC to hold the injured worker and the two insurers jointly and severally liable for the money it paid to Verlinger. BWC claimed it paid about $74,000 in benefits and would pay $46,000 in the future, and that it was entitled to recovery $120,000 of the $250,000.

The trial court ruled that under R.C. 4123.931, the bureau was not entitled to the recovery because it had denied Verlinger benefits at the time of the settlement. The Ninth District Court of Appeals affirmed the decision and BWC appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

Judith Pelletier v. City of Campbell et al., Case no. 2017-0088

Seventh District Court of Appeals (Mahoning County)

ISSUES:

Did roadside foliage qualify as an “obstruction” for purposes of determining whether a political subdivision was immune from a claim that alleges negligent failure to maintain a public road?

Does the exception to political subdivision immunity when there is failure to keep public roads in repair require that the actual public road be in a deteriorated, damaged, or disassembled state?

BACKGROUND:

Judith Pelletier drove into an intersection in the city of Campbell on the morning of Aug. 22, 2013, and collided with an oncoming vehicle. Pelletier said she couldn’t see the stop sign at the intersection because overgrown shrubs obscured her view of the sign. There was no stop sign for traffic traveling on the cross street.

In March 2014, Pelletier sued the city of Campbell, along with the owner of the property with the shrubs, the mortgage lender, and a property services company the bank hired to take care of the property during a foreclosure process. Pelletier argued that the city had a duty to remove the shrubs and maintain the stop sign to keep it visible to motorists traveling on the street.

The city contended that it had immunity from the lawsuit as a government entity, and asked the trial court for summary judgment. The court denied the city’s motion in November 2015.

On appeal, the Seventh District Court of Appeals also concluded the city wasn’t entitled to summary judgment because the determination whether exceptions to government immunity applied in this case required a jury to consider the facts.

The city appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to review the issues.

Date Published: February 28, 2018

 

Supreme Court of Ohio

 

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Supreme Court of Ohio heard three oral arguments on Wednesday, February 14th, including a dispute over whether a shared parking lot can be included in a stores tax valuation

The Ohio Supreme Court heard three oral arguments on Wednesday, February 14th, including a challenge brought by a grocery store that claims the state tax appeal board inappropriately added the value of a parking lot not owned by the store to its tax valuation.

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