RESPONDENT: County Commission of Webster County, West Virginia
LOCATION: Kino Community Hospital
DOCKET NO.: 87-1303
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
CITATION: 488 US 336 (1989)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1988
DECIDED: Jan 18, 1989
E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. - on behalf of the Petitioners
William Ullrich - on behalf of the Respondent
Facts of the case
Media for Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Company v. County Commission of Webster County, West VirginiaAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1988 in Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Company v. County Commission of Webster County, West Virginia
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 18, 1989 in Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Company v. County Commission of Webster County, West Virginia
William H. Rehnquist:
I have the opinion of the Court to announce in Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Company versus the County Commissioner of Webster County, West Virginia.
The petitioners in these cases are coal companies that own property in Webster County, West Virginia.
Over a period of more than 10 years, their property was taxed significantly more than comparable properties in the County.
These disparities were solely the result of a tax assessment policy adapted by the Webster County tax assessor in which she would use the last sale price of the property as the value of the land for assessment purposes.
If the property had not been recently conveyed, she would carry over its assessment from the previous year and occasionally make a minor adjustment.
A petitioner's assessments were far higher than the carried over assessments of comparable neighboring properties despite the occasional adjustments.
The West Virginia Court of Appeals held that petitioners could not complain.
Their property was assessed at no more than its current value, and any complaint about the under-evaluation of neighboring property could only be remedied by an action to raise those other assessments.
We find the Webster County assessment scheme violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it creates significant assessment differences between similar parcels and does not equalize them in a reasonable amount of time.
We also hold that petitioners cannot be limited to seeking an increase in the taxes of others rather than the reduction in their own.
The judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia is therefore, reversed.