Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The appellant, Floyd Hutson, appeals from the trial court’s summary judgment decreeing that Tri-County Properties LLC is the legal and equitable owner of title to a 48.3 acre tract of real property located in Parker County. In 1998, Azle ISD filed a tax suit to collect delinquent ad valorem taxes due on the property, which is appraised for purposes of property taxation by both Parker County’s and Tarrant County’s appraisal districts. Azle ISD filed the suit against Clarion Trust, the owner of record, for whom Hutson served as the registered agent. Clarion had acquired the property by a quitclaim deed executed by Hutson in 1996. On March 9, 2001, Clarion deeded the property back to Hutson and his wife. Three days later, on March 12, 2001, Hutson and his wife conveyed the property to Hollywood Land Pictures. The trial court entered judgment on the tax suit on Oct. 29, 2002, in favor of Azle ISD and against Clarion Trust, Hollywood Land Pictures and the Hutsons. Tri-County bought the property at a sheriff’s tax sale on June 23, 2003. Tri-County recorded the deed on June 26, 2003. On March 4, 2004, Tri-County initiated and prevailed in an eviction proceeding against Hutson. Hutson contends that, at that time, he and his wife were co-owners of the property. On June 22, 2005, Hutson asserted a right to redeem the property under the Texas Tax Code and the Texas Constitution. On July 29, 2005, Tri-County filed its original petition for trespass to try title. On May 18, 2006, Tri-County filed a motion for summary judgment on both traditional and no-evidence grounds, arguing that Hutson’s redemption was not timely, because it was not done within 180 days from the date the purchaser’s deed was filed of record. In his response, Hutson argued that the redemption was timely, because it was within the two-year window allowed by the Texas Tax Code for a homestead and/or land designated for agricultural use. The trial court rendered summary judgment for Tri-County. Hutson then filed a motion for new trial, alleging newly discovered evidence showing that the property was designated for agricultural use by the Parker County Appraisal District at the time the tax suit was filed. In response, Tri-County argued that the motion was not verified, that Hutson’s failure to obtain the evidence until after the summary judgment was due solely to his lack of diligence, and that the evidence did not help Hutson because to have land designated for agricultural use when the property is appraised by more than one appraisal district, the landowner must file an application for the designation with both appraisal districts. The trial court denied the motion. Hutson appealed. HOLDING:Affirmed. Because the Constitution does not require that “homestead” and “residence homestead” be defined the same and because it does not define the term “residence homestead,” the Legislature was free to provide such a definition. It did so in Texas Tax Code �11.13(j)(1). Because the protection given to a “homestead” (the prevention of a forced sale to pay general debts) and the protection given to a “residence homestead” (allowing for redemption after the Constitution-sanctioned tax sale) arise in distinct contexts, the definition of “homestead” in the property code and the definition of “residence homestead” in the tax code are not irreconcilable. The trial court therefore did not err by relying on the definition of “residence homestead” in the tax code rather than the definition of “homestead” found in the property code. Hutson argues that the deed presented by Tri-County may constitute evidence of Tri-County’s ownership in 2003, the time of the tax deed, but it does not constitute evidence of Tri-County’s continued ownership of the property at the time of the summary judgment. The court rejects this argument. Hutson argues that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion for new trial based on newly discovered, outcome-determinative evidence. The evidence in question is an affidavit from Parker County Appraisal District employee Eleanore Skidmore stating that, although PCAD cannot provide certified tax certificates or other certified documents for the relevant year, she has reviewed the information located within PCAD, and the property was designated for agricultural use by PCAD in 1998. With a diligent search of relevant statutes and regulations, Hutson could have discovered before trial that PCAD was required to have retained the relevant records needed to determine that the property had been designated for agricultural use in 1998. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for new trial based on the Skidmore affidavit, because the court could have properly determined that it was due to a lack of diligence that Hutson did not obtain this evidence before trial. OPINION:Dauphinot, J.; Dauphinot, Walker and McCoy, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.