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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The county of Dallas, on its own behalf and on behalf of the city of Dallas, Dallas Independent School District, Dallas County School Equalization Fund, Dallas County Community College District, and Parkland Hospital District (the taxing authorities), filed suit against John B. Barnett Jr. MD Surgical, PA to collect delinquent ad valorem taxes for the years 1993 through 2003. Barnett denied ownership of the property and protested the property’s appraised value. Following a bench trial, the trial court ruled in favor of the taxing authorities, and Barnett appealed. In January 1990, Barnett had moved his practice from one address to another and left “a great deal” of the business personal property with the new occupant of the old office. Because he did not take all of the property with him, Barnett testified he believed the taxing authorities were trying to tax him on property he did not own. Barnett admitted that he had “no idea” what property the taxing authorities claimed he owned. He said no one had been to his office in 14 years to appraise the property at his new address, but that he did not believe the property was worth $78,000 as indicated in the tax statement. He also testified that he did not return any of the rendition forms to the appraisal district stating he disagreed with the appraised value of the business personal property, and he did not recall whether the forms were sent to him individually or to his business. In ruling for the taxing authorities, the trial court found that, under �42.09 of the property tax code, Barnett was required to exhaust his administrative remedies before he could protest ownership in defense to a suit to collect delinquent taxes. On appeal, Barnett challenged that finding. He also argued that, because the trial court erroneously concluded he had not exhausted its administrative remedies, it failed to properly shift the burden of producing evidence of ownership of the property back to the taxing authorities after Barnett rebutted the presumption of ownership. Finally, Barnett argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to compel discovery. HOLDING:Affirmed. Because the taxing authorities agree with Barnett’s interpretation of �42.09, the court does not address Barnett’s first issue contending the trial court erroneously concluded he had not exhausted its administrative remedies. In response to Barnett’s second issue, however, the taxing authorities argue that the trial court’s finding that Barnett had not exhausted his administrative remedies was not erroneous or harmful because, despite the finding, the trial court allowed Barnett to present evidence to support his affirmative defense that it did not own the property. Barnett argues that the testimony he presented that the property was not appraised was sufficient to show that he did not own the property and should have caused the trial court to shift the burden back to the taxing authorities to introduce additional evidence of ownership. The court disagrees with Barnett’s argument and finds that the only evidence from Barnett about ownership was his testimony that he owned business personal property at his new address, just not all of the property he owned before the move in 1990. The court finds that Barnett did not introduce any evidence he was being taxed on property he did not own. Consequently, the court concludes that Barnett did not rebut the presumption of ownership by introducing evidence that the property was not appraised, and the taxing authorities were under no obligation to offer further evidence to prove ownership. As a result, the court states that the trial court’s erroneous interpretation of �42.09 does not require reversal. Finally, Barnett argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied appellant’s motion to compel the taxing authorities to produce records that “dealt with the Appraisal District’s methods for appraising Barnett’s property” and information that would allow appellant “to ascertain what assets the Appraisal District thought Barnett owned.” The court finds that the information Barnett sought in discovery were public records accessible to both Barnett and the taxing authorities. Additionally, the court finds that the information was in the possession of a nonparty, the appraisal district. Consequently, the court holds that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Barnett’s motion to compel. OPINION:Lang-Miers, J.; FitzGerald, Lang-Miers, and Mazzant, JJ.

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