For six years, Michael Eaton, who handles a lot of property tax cases, never appeared before a jury. Such litigation rarely goes to a jury trial, he explains.

But recently Eaton represented nonprofit housing organizations in a three-day trial. On March 21, he won, saving them about $3.5 million in property taxes. His clients had sued the Bexar Appraisal District alleging in their Feb. 13, 2010, amended petition that they should receive a waiver for their 2007-2010 property taxes because they are nonprofits providing low- and moderate-income housing.

In a July 25, 2008, answer, the appraisal district issued a general denial and sought a jury trial.

Eaton says the other side argued in court that the plaintiffs did not operate as a community housing provider as required to legally qualify to receive the tax exemption because Brompton Community III did not provide enough housing for low- and moderate-income families.

Bexar Appraisal District litigation manager William Durland, who represents the agency in this case, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

After less than 30 minutes of deliberations, the 45th District Court jury returned a plaintiffs’ verdict in Brompton Community Housing Development Corp., et al. v. Bexar Appraisal District .

According to the verdict form, jurors decided that Brompton Community III, the subsidiary of Brompton Community Housing Development Corp., was organized as a community housing development organization; provided housing to low- and moderate-income families; and was engaged in primarily charitable functions. As a result of those designations, Eaton says, the parent structure and the housing corporation are eligible for waivers under Texas Tax Code §11.182. [See the verdict form.]

Eaton of The Eaton Law Firm in Southlake believes the time he has spent steeped in the minutiae of tax law helped him win over jurors. And, he says the Bexar County case establishes a precedent that will help him in 14 other similar suits he has filed.

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