Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co. v. McGaughey Bros., Inc., 5--5581

Decision Date28 June 1971
Docket NumberNo. 5--5581,5--5581
Citation468 S.W.2d 754,250 Ark. 1083
PartiesARKANSAS LOUISIANA GAS COMPANY, Appellant, v. McGAUGHEY BROTHERS, INC., Appellee.
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Hout, Thaxton & Hout, Newport, for appellant.

Pickens, Pickens & Boyce, by Tim F. Watson, Newport, for appellee.

FOGLEMAN, Justice.

Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company appeals from a jury award of $28,314 as compensation for lands of McGaughey Brothers, Inc., taken by eminent domain for installation, maintenance and operation of a 24-inch underground gas pipeline. McGaughey Brothers owned and operated 3,586 acres of farmland located on the east bank of the White River. Crops produced were rice, cotton, soybeans and feed crops. 870 acres were in improved pasture over which there were unimproved roads. The owners of the farming corporation maintained a herd of 200 to 250 brood cows with calves and replacement heifers.

Appellant took 3.45 acres in fee simple upon which it erected a tower 168.5 feet high to support a pipeline suspended over White River, 20.4 acres as permanent right-of-way easement 80 feet wide for an underground pipeline, and temporary ingress, egress and 'regress' for construction purposes over appellee's private roads, the area of which totalled 26.4 acres. This pipeline was located north of and parallel to six 10-inch pipelines on the McGaughey property, which converged into one line on that farm. 15 acres of unharvested soybeans were damaged as a result of the pipeline construction.

Appellant argues that the circuit court erred in permitting appellee to introduce evidence of damages to the private roads during the period of construction and the cost of their restoration, over its objection. It asserts that error was committed in admitting testimony about the condition of the roads after appellant's work had been completed. It contends these were special damages which had not been pleaded. We have held, in a case where a railroad constructed its tracks upon a right-of-way which it used for a short time and then removed its tracks and abandoned the right-of-way, the measure of damages to the landowner was the rental value of the land taken, in the condition it was when taken, for the time it was occupied, its depreciation in value by reason of timber cut and other acts done thereon by the railway company and the damages to the remainder of the owner's land resulting from the building of the road across it and from flooding or overflow caused by the construction. Pine Bluff & W. Ry. Co. v. Kelly, 78 Ark. 83, 93 S.W. 562.

Whenever the contemplated construction for which a right-of-way is taken has not been completed, damages are assessed upon the presumption that it will be built with skill and proper precautions; however, if construction is complete at the date of the trial, the jury may consider the state of facts then existing in the light afforded by actual construction. The assessment of damages embraces all past, present and future damages, including those arising from faulty construction, which the location of the facility for which the right-of-way is taken may reasonably produce. Springfield & Memphis Railway Co. v. Rhea, 44 Ark. 258; Missouri & N.A. Rd. Co. v. Bratton, 92 Ark. 563, 124 S.W. 231. Such damages are not special damages which must be pleaded. In Arkansas Central Railroad Co. v. Smith, 71 Ark. 189, 71 S.W. 947, we said:

Counsel for the company say that, if the pond was left upon the premises by the improper construction of the road, this would be an element of special damages, which could not be proved in this action, for the reason that there was no allegation to that effect, and no notice to the defendant of such a claim. This contention must be overruled, for, in the first place, there is no evidence and no contention that the road was improperly constructed. The mere fact that the excavation of earth for the roadbed left a pond of water does not necessarily show that the road was improperly constructed. But even if it did, it would make no difference for the road had already been constructed at the time of the trial; and it was for the jury to consider the state of facts then existing, and, with the light afforded by the actual construction of the road, determine what the damages were.

In Arkansas Power & Light Co. v. Harper (1970) 249 Ark. ---, 460 S.W.2d 75 we held that any error in the admission of testimony as to timber removed from a right-of-way and windrowed along and partially beyond its outside edges as evidence of unpleaded special damages was cured by the court's proper instruction as to the measure of the landowner's recovery. The correct instruction as to the measure of appellee's compensation was here as in Harper, as will be presently illustrated.

Assuming, however, that the damage to the roads constituted special damages which should have been pleaded, we cannot say that there was any prejudice to appellant, because it did not plead surprise or request a continuance. When the trial court permits the introduction of evidence in face of an objection that the point at issue was not raised by the pleadings, the effect of the ruling is to treat the pleadings as amended to conform to the proof. Bonds v. Littrell, 247 Ark. 577, 446 S.W.2d 672. So the trial court's ruling here was equivalent to treating the issue as if it had been asserted by a pleading amended at that stage of the proceeding. The purpose of requiring special damages to be pleaded is to prevent surprise. Arkansas State Highway Commission v. Dixon, 247 Ark. 130, 444 S.W.2d 571. If appellant had pleaded surprise, when its objection was overruled, it might have been entitled to a continuance, if an issue of special damages not pleaded had arisen, in order to prepare to meet it. Missouri Pacific Transportation Co. v. Williams, 194 Ark. 852, 109 S.W.2d 924. But where no surprise is pleaded and no time requested to prepare to meet the issue, there is no error. Arkansas State Highway Commission v. Dixon, supra; Missouri Pac. Transp. Co. v. Williams, supra; Bennett v. Snyder, 147 Ark. 206, 227 S.W. 402; Ft. Smith Refrigeration & Equipment Co., Inc., v. Ferguson, 217 Ark. 457, 230 S.W.2d 943; Famous Store v. Lund-Mauldin Co., 149 Ark. 658, 233 S.W. 767; Thomas v. Spires, 180 Ark. 671, 22 S.W.2d 553.

Appellant's second point for reversal relates to the giving and refusal of instructions relating to the measure of just compensation to the landowners. The circuit court gave appellant's requested Instruction No. 4, as follows:

Under the law, McGaughey Brothers, Incorporated, is entitled to recover the fair market value of the lands acquired by Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company, determined as of the 28th day of September, 1964, together with the difference, if any, in the fair market value of the remainder of the lands immediately before and immediately after the taking.

You will, therefore, ascertain the difference between the market value of the entire tract of land of McGaughey Brothers, Incorporated, before the taking and the fair market value of the lands remaining in the tract after such taking, and that difference is the amount that McGaughey Brothers, Incorporated, is entitled to recover, and your verdict should be for McGaughey Brothers, Incorporated, in such amount.

When I use the expression 'fair market value,' I mean the price that the property of McGaughey Brothers, Incorporated, would bring on the open market in a sale between a seller who is willing to sell and a buyer who is willing and able to buy after a reasonable opportunity for negotiations.

Appellant's requested Instruction No. 5, which was refused, read:

In determining the amount of compensation to be paid to McGaughey Brothers, Inc., by Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company, you are to consider that the use of the lands acquired by Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company is limited to those uses for which they were acquired, and that McGaughey Brothers, Inc., has the absolute right to continue using the surface of the lands acquired for the right-of-way for other purposes not inconsistent with the use of the easement by Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company.

The court gave an instruction requested by appellee after modifying it to read as follows:

(Request)

You are instructed that Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company acquires by this Condemnation Proceeding the power to make such use of the 20.4 acre right-of-way across the property of the landowners as its present and future needs require for the purpose for which the right-of-way is condemned, and Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company is liable to the landowners as though the lands were taken in fee simple or absolute title.

(Modification)

As to the 3.45 acreage, McGaughey Brothers have no further right or control. As to the 20.4 acres over which the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company now holds an easement, the McGaughey Brothers, Incorporated, have the right to such use and control of the surface of these lands so long as the uses and purposes to which they are put are not inconsistent with the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company's right to maintain and operate their pipeline.

Appellant first argues that the instruction given was erroneous because it made the condemnor 'liable to the landowners as though the lands were taken in fee simple or absolute title,' rather than 'liable for the full market value of the land taken as if it were taken in fee simple absolute.' This semantic argument is not well founded. We do not see how the jury could have been misled when the instructions are read as a whole. 'As if' and 'as though' are commonly accepted as conveying the same meaning. Webster's New International Dictionary, Unabridged, Second Edition.

Appellant's principal argument relating to these instructions, however, is based upon Arkansas Power & Light Co. v. Mayo, 244 Ark. 435, 425 S.W.2d 531. There the court (three members dissenting) said that we could not be certain that the instructions given in a similar case did not confuse the jury...

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