FAIRFIELD MERRITTVIEW LTD. PARTNERSHIP v. CITY OF NORWALK, SC 19373

Judicial District of Fairfield

 

      Taxation; Subject Matter Jurisdiction; Corporations; Whether Plaintiffs Lacked Standing to Appeal Property Valuation to Superior Court Pursuant to General Statutes § 12-117a.  The plaintiffs are Fairfield Merrittview Limited Partnership (partnership) and Fairfield Merrittview SPE, LLC (LLC).  The partnership owned an office building and conveyed it to the LLC in 2007.  The defendant’s assessor determined in 2008 that the fair market value of the property was $49,036,800 and assessed the property at 70 percent of that value.  The partnership appealed the assessment to the defendant’s board of assessment appeals, seeking a reduction in the valuation.  The board made no changes to the assessment, and the partnership appealed the board’s decision to the Superior Court pursuant to General Statutes § 12-117a, which allows a party that claims to be aggrieved by a decision of the board of assessment appeals to appeal that decision to the trial court.  After appealing to the trial court, the partnership moved to add the LLC as a party plaintiff, alleging that both the partnership and the LLC owned the property, and the trial court granted the motion.  The trial court sustained the plaintiffs’ appeal, rejecting the defendant’s claim that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal because the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the assessor’s valuation.  The defendant argued that the partnership lacked standing because it did not own the property at the time of the valuation and that the LLC lacked standing because it was not a party to the appeal before the board, a defect that the defendant claimed could not be cured by adding the LLC as a party plaintiff after the appeal was brought in the Superior Court.  The defendant appealed to the Appellate Court (149 Conn. App. 468).  The Appellate Court reversed the judgment and remanded to the trial court with direction to dismiss the tax appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that neither plaintiff had standing to bring the appeal under § 12-117a.  It found that, while the LLC was the sole owner of the property on the date of the assessor’s valuation, it was the partnership that challenged the valuation before the board and the LLC did not participate in that appeal.  The Appellate Court also noted that the appeal from the board’s decision to the Superior Court was brought initially solely by the partnership, which incorrectly had alleged that it was an owner of the property.  Finally, the Appellate Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that they were essentially the same entity, noting that the partnership and the LLC were separate and distinct legal entities and that there was no evidence showing that they had merged or were in fact a single legal entity.  The plaintiffs were granted certification to appeal, and the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that they lacked standing to appeal from the tax valuation of the property to the Superior Court pursuant to § 12-117a.