368 F.2d 354 (9th Cir. 1966), 20643, Gila River Ranch, Inc. v. United States

Docket Nº:20643, 20644.
Citation:368 F.2d 354
Party Name:GILA RIVER RANCH, INC., a corporation, and Russell Badley and Celeste Badley, Appellants, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee. GILA RIVER RANCH, INC., a corporation, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Case Date:October 13, 1966
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 354

368 F.2d 354 (9th Cir. 1966)

GILA RIVER RANCH, INC., a corporation, and Russell Badley and Celeste Badley, Appellants,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

GILA RIVER RANCH, INC., a corporation, Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

Nos. 20643, 20644.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

October 13, 1966

Page 355

Mark Wilmer, Snell & Wilmer, Phoenix, Ariz., for appellant Gila River Ranch, Inc.

Fred Rosenfeld, Gust, Rosenfeld & Divelbess, Phoenix, Ariz., for appellants Badley.

Edwin L. Weisl, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Roger P. Marquis, Edmund B. Clark, Attys., U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., Wm. P. Copple, U.S. Atty.,

Page 356

Richard S. Allemann, Asst. U.S. Atty., Phoenix, Ariz., for appellee.

Before MADDEN, Judge of the United States Court of Claims, and KOELSCH and DUNIWAY, Circuit Judges.

MADDEN, Judge:

These appeals are from judgments in two suits by the United States in the United States District Court to take flowage easements in the Gila River Basin of Maricopa County, Arizona, the easements being related to the Painted Rock Dam. No. 20643 involves a tract of 18,945.29 acres, owned, at the time of the taking, by appellant Gila River Ranch, Inc., hereinafter called Gila. Gila, after the taking, conveyed its title to some 640 acres of its large tract to Russell Badley and Celeste Badley, who also are appellants in No. 20643. No. 20644 involves a tract of 78.79 acres, owned at the time of the taking and apparently still owned by Gila.

The two cases were tried together in the district court, but separate verdicts and judgments were rendered. We will treat first of the case which is involved in our No. 20643, and relates to the large tract of land. The jury's verdict rendered on November 27, 1964, was for $1,132,000. On February 8, 1965, the United States made a motion for a new trial, on the ground that the verdict was excessive. The district court denied the motion, but conditioned its denial upon the remittitur by the appellants of $125,000. Thereupon the appellants, i.e. Gila and the Badleys, executed releases to the United States of all claims to $125,000, which releases were approved by the court on July 13, 1965. In the meantime the United States had paid into the registry of the court an amount sufficient to satisfy the jury's verdict, and this money was used to pay certain creditors of Gila who had liens upon the acreage in question, and to pay the balance to Gila, except that $52,000 was paid to the Badleys pursuant to an agreement between Gila and the Badleys that the Badleys were to receive $52,000 which they were to immediately pay over to Gila. Gila received $607,947.75 'without prejudice,' from the registry of the court.

A judgment for the amount of the jury's verdict $1,132.000, and interest, was entered, as were the releases of the $125,000. On September 10, 1965, the United States filed a motion to set aside the judgment of $1,132,000, with interest, and to substitute a new judgment for $1,007,000, with interest. The purpose of the proposed substitution was to subtract the remitted $125,000 directly from the jury's verdict of $1,132,000, and thus have interest computed only on the reduced principal sum. The difference in question was interest on $125,000 from the time of the taking to the time of payment by the Government. It amounted to $28,125.

The appellants objected, but the court granted the United States' motion and entered the requested new judgment, which also ordered Gila and the Badleys to refund to the United States $153,125 ($125,000 plus interest on $125,000.), but limiting the Badleys' refund liability to $7,043.75 which would have been their part, proportionate to the $52,000 which they had received, of the refundable principal and interest.

I

The Gila River Ranch, Inc. Appeal in No. 20543

The district court had authority to reopen the remittitur question pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The argument of Gila that the $125,000 remittitur was and is final is not valid. The remittitur of $125,000 was filed, with court approval, on July 15, 1965. Four months later the court ordered Gila River Ranch to refund $153,125. The court said it was doing so because its original intention was that Gila should remit $125,000 from the verdict, not from the judgment, i.e., the court intended Gila to remit $125,000 plus interest on $125,000.

That this was the district court's intention is clear. When the court ordered remittitur of $125,000, it stated in its

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memorandum that 'the verdict should be reduced in Cause No. 3586 in the Amount of $125,000 * * *. If the defendant landowner, within 30 days from filing of this opinion, will file a stipulation to accept judgments 1 on the verdicts in the two cases reduced by the above amounts, then the motion for a new trial will be denied; otherwise the motion will be granted.' Thereupon, Gila filed a consent to a reduction of $125,000 from the judgment. Evidently, Gila River Ranch misunderstood the court's intent. And when the court approved the remittitur of $125,000 from the judgment, the court evidently overlooked the significance of the word 'judgment.' 2

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