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09/27/89 In Re Application of the County Treasurer and Ex Officio

September 27, 1989



County Collector of Cook County (County Collector of

Cook County, Appellee, v.

Ford Motor Company, Appellant)

546 N.E.2d 506, 131 Ill. 2d 541, 137 Ill. Dec. 561 1989.IL.1501

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Robert J. Dempsey, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CALVO took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.


Ford Motor Company (Ford) filed in the circuit court of Cook County an objection to an application of the Cook County collector (Collector) for judgment for delinquent 1981 real estate taxes. Following a bench trial, the circuit court found in favor of Ford, concluding that the Collector's assessed valuation of Ford's property was so excessive as to be constructively fraudulent and therefore invalid. The trial court then ordered the Collector to refund excess taxes that Ford had paid under protest. The Collector appealed to the appellate court. The appellate court found that the trial court's finding that Ford's property had been overvalued by the assessor was against the manifest weight of the evidence and reversed. (166 Ill. App. 3d 373.) We allowed Ford's petition for leave to appeal from the appellate court's judgment pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 315 (107 Ill. 2d R. 315).

The record discloses that in 1981, Ford owned and operated an automotive manufacturing facility in Cook County, Illinois, that stamped metal into auto body parts. The facility was situated on a 133-acre tract of land located in an unincorporated area of Cook County at the intersection of Cottage Grove Avenue and Lincoln Highway in Bloom Township. The stamping plant totaled approximately 2.5 million square feet and consisted of one main building, which housed the manufacturing facilities and administrative offices, and 11 support buildings, such as a powerhouse, an oil shed and storage facilities.

Under the Cook County Real Property Assessment Classification Ordinance, Ford's stamping plant is a Class V property, and, as such, is assessed at 40% of its fair market value. (Cook County Real Property Assessment Classification Ordinance §§ 13 -- 14, 13 -- 15 (1980).) For the tax year 1981, the assessed value of Ford's property was $13,626,634, which corresponded to a market value of $34,066,585. The assessed value resulted in property taxes of $1,783,381.49 for that year. Ford, believing that the assessed valuation was excessive, paid the taxes under protest, and then appealed to the board of appeals of Cook County to challenge the 1981 assessment. The board made no change in the assessment.

The Cook County collector made an application for judgment and order of sale of all real estate on which the taxes for the year 1981 had not been paid in full, and also made application to the court for a determination of the correct amount of property taxes paid in full under protest. Pursuant to section 235 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 120, par. 716), Ford timely filed with the circuit court of Cook County its objection to the Collector's application, alleging, among other things, that the assessment was constructively fraudulent and that Ford was entitled to a tax refund of $762,558.92.

In December 1985, a bench trial was held at which Ford sought to prove constructive fraud on the part of the assessor by establishing that the assessor's valuation of its property was grossly excessive. At trial, Ford offered the expert testimony of John Shanahan, a certified real estate appraiser. Shanahan testified that he had been hired by Ford to render an appraisal of the stamping plant's value in the fall of 1980 and that he believed the property had a fair market value of $19.5 million, an amount more than $14 million less than that calculated by the assessor, as of January 1, 1981. Shanahan explained that in appraising Ford's property he had utilized the three commonly accepted approaches in appraising property values, the cost, income and market data approaches. An explanation of the three approaches used by Shanahan is provided in the appellate court's opinion and need not be repeated here. 166 Ill. App. 3d at 375-76.

Shanahan stated that, in his opinion, under the market data approach, the Ford property had an appraised value of $19.5 million; under the cost approach, a value of $20,435,000; and, under the income approach, a value of $17,870,000. Shanahan explained that, although he considered all three approaches in arriving at his final estimate of fair market value, he relied most heavily on the market data approach because he considered that approach to yield the most accurate estimate of value. Shanahan stated that he considered the cost approach to be a sound approach to use in determining property values and that, after the market data approach, ...

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