United States v. Hatahley

257 F.2d 920 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 358 U.S. 899 (1958)

Yeazell, pp. 315-318


Facts: The federal government unlawfully sold the plaintiffs’ livestock to a glue factory.  The plaintiff was awarded damages of almost $200,000 by the federal district court and the United States appeals.


Issue: Was the damage award appropriately calculated?


Rule: “The fundamental principle of damages is to restore the injured party, as nearly as possible, to the position he would have been in had it not been for the wrong of the other party.”


Analysis: The court finds that the trial judge incorrectly assigned the value of the horses and burros based on their particular value to the plaintiffs rather than based on their general market value.  The lower court should have used some type of market measure of damages.


The court also finds that the calculation of loss of use damages was arbitrary, should have been based on the actual proximate harm done by the federal government, and should be mitigated based on the plaintiffs ability to acquire suitable replacements for the animals lost.


Finally, the court objects to the fact that the trial judge awarded each plaintiff the same amount for pain and suffering.  The court finds this incorrect on its face because individuals must be awarded such damages on an individual basis.


Basically, the court wants the damages to be calculated in more detail.


Conclusion: The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial as to damages.  The trial judge was advised to recuse himself from the case.


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