Appeal Before Ruling On Right To Tax Deed Premature

Dennis Ballinger owned a communications tower that was erected on property in Hancock County, Illinois. He filed a petition to obtain a tax deed for the property. Pettit Land, LLC. disputed Ballinger’s petition. Pettit claimed it owned the land, but not the tower, and that it properly paid taxes for the land.

Pettit asked the court to deny Ballinger’s request for the tax deed. After a hearing on Pettit’s request, the trial court ruled in Pettit’s favor and stated: “…[I]f petitioner [Ballinger] proceeded forward to obtain a tax deed, he would only receive rights in the improvements on the site (the communications tower) and would not receive rights to the underlying ground.”

Ballinger asked the trial court to reconsider the ruling. The court denied Ballinger’s request, and ruled that its original order and the order denying reconsideration were final and appealable. So Ballinger appealed.

The Third District Illinois Appellate Court dismissed the appeal. Because the orders did not conclude the proceeding for a tax deed, they were neither final nor appealable. Here’s the way the appellate court saw it.

In the present case, the issue on appeal involves only the trial court’s ruling on a motion brought during the course of a tax deed proceeding. This appeal does not involve the trial court’s ultimate ruling granting or denying the tax deed or declaring a sale in error … Thus, despite the trial court’s statement to the contrary, the orders in question were not “final judgments,” as specified in [Illinois] Supreme Court Rule 301, which would provide for an appeal as a matter of right.

Read the whole opinion, Ballinger v. Pettit Land, No. 3-09-0134 (10/15/09), by clicking here.