Arkansas State Highway Commission v. Steed, 5--4109

Decision Date06 February 1967
Docket NumberNo. 5--4109,5--4109
Citation241 Ark. 950,411 S.W.2d 17
PartiesARKANSAS STATE HIGHWAY COMM., Appellant, v. C. V. STEED and Jeff Steed, Appellees.
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

George O. Green and Joe Gunter and Robert H. Hall, Little Rock, for appellant.

Carroll C. Cannon, Forrest City, for appellees.

FOGLEMAN, Justice.

Appellant took the fee simple title to 27.2 acres from one Jeannette Becker Lenygon together with certain construction easements over her lands consisting of approximately 580 acres being used for agricultural purposes. This was right-of-way for construction of Interstate Highway No. 40, a controlled access highway in St. Francis County, Arkansas. Its complaint and declaration of taking were filed on the 21st day of February, 1963. Although the property was under an agricultural lease to appellee C. V. Steed, expiring at the end of the year 1963, 1 through which he and appellee Jeff Steed, as farming partners, were in possession of the property, they were not made parties, nor did they have any notice of the taking until May 16th when surveyors began 'stomping his fresh levees down', and after which the driving of piling for highway construction was commenced. Summons was issued for and served on appellees on June 12, 1963. When appellees first became aware of the taking, they had already planted and commenced irrigation of a rice crop on the leased lands and had also planted cotton and beans.

The right-of-way taken ran diagonally across the Lenygon lands from a point near the northeast corner to a point near the southwest corner. The Steeds had farmed a substantial portion of the lands in rice production, using two wells and a system of canals for the necessary irrigation. They also used the lands for fall and winter pasture.

Appellees promptly filed their answer on June 24, 1963, claiming that by reason of the taking of the land and crops thereon planted by them, they would be damaged in the sum of $820.00 and as a result of the taking of the strip of land, they were unable to properly water, plant and cultivate the remaining acreage and were damaged in the sum of $7,155.00, their irrigation canals having been blocked and the drainage interfered with. They also claimed damages for the deprivation of the use of the land taken by appellant during the year 1963, saying that it was impossible at that late date to get other lands for farming.

The case was tried as to both landlord and tenant and separate awards were made to each by the jury. The jury awarded damages 'to the leasehold' in the sum of $400.00; to crops on the right-of-way, $1,420.00; and to crops off the right-of-way, $6,000.00. This appeal is only from that part of the judgment awarding damages for the crops growing off the right-of-way. We do not know any of the instructions that the jury considered in arriving at its verdict, except for two requested by appellees and given by the trial court, as the record was abbreviated to cover only those points urged by appellant for reversal.

No demurrer to appellees' answer, motion to strike, or reply was filed by appellant. The case was called for trial and after a jury was selected, but before opening statements were made, appellant's attorneys asked to be heard in chambers. At this hearing appellant, for the first time, stated its contention that the claim for crop damage to the residual acreage was actually in tort against either the highway commission or its contractor and not recoverable in the eminent domain action. The trial judge ruled that the sole question was whether or not the water stoppage claimed by appellees was shown by the evidence to be a damage caused by the taking and following the construction of the highway. The judge also went on to say that if the damage was caused by the negligence of someone not a party to the suit, it would be a tort action, but he did not believe that the court could say this solely on the allegations of the pleadings filed. In order to clarify his ruling, the judge stated that proof which was in accordance with the pleadings would be accepted and permitted and that appellees would be permitted to offer testimony proving any damages occasioned by the taking of the property and the construction which followed, and if there was evidence that the damage was caused by the negligence of someone and not by the taking, then the court would pass upon the question. Appellant objected and it was understood that the objection would go to any testimony admitted under this ruling. From time to time during the presentation of the evidence, this objection was renewed.

At the conclusion of all the evidence, appellant unsuccessfully moved to strike all evidence with regard to damages to residual tracts, apparently on the contention that these damages caused by the taking were 'incidental', so that appellees would be entitled to recover only for damages to those crops on the right-of-way. The court then gave the instructions requested by appellees. One of these stated the measure of damages to a crop to be the difference in the fair market value between the crop that the land would otherwise have produced and the crop actually produced, less the difference between what it would have cost to have produced, harvested, and marketed an undamaged crop and what it did cost to produce, harvest, and market the actual crop. The other told the jury that the tenant was entitled to just compensation for damages to his crops on land adjoining land taken by condemnation and farmed as a single operation which they found from a preponderance of the evidence resulted from the taking.

The points relied on here are: (1) That the instructions are erroneous because they permitted the jury to consider elements of damages which amounted to a counterclaim against the state prohibited by Article 5, § 20 of The Arkansas Constitution and, (2) that the court erred in permitting testimony relating to crops growing on lands not taken, as this constituted a constitutionally prohibited suit against the state. No objection relating to these points, other than those hereinabove stated, was made.

For the purposes of this opinion, it is sufficient to say that the testimony of appellees and the witnesses called by them tended to prove damages to the crops on lands of the leasehold remaining after the taking, under the rules outlined by the trial judge, and that these damages were caused by removal of fences crossing the right-of-way, blocking of drainage on the right-of-way, blocking of an irrigation canal crossed by the right-of-way so that there was no canal there at the time of the trial, and damaging of a water gate and bridge during construction of the highway for which the lands were taken. There is no evidence on behalf of appellant in the abbreviated transcript and nothing to indicate that any was offered by it as to the claim of appellees. It was stipulated that no...

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6 cases
  • Bd. of Water Works Trs. of Des Moines v. Sac Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • January 27, 2017
    ...658, 677 (2005) (noting the adoption of statute codifying immunity for discretionary functions); see also Ark. State Highway Comm'n v. Steed , 241 Ark. 950, 411 S.W.2d 17, 21 (1967) (granting immunity for tort actions against "improvement districts" but allowing injunctive relief and compen......
  • Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co. v. Verser
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • January 17, 1972
    ... ... See Arkansas State Highway Comm'n v. Lewis, 243 Ark. 943, 422 S.W.2d 866 ... Cf. Arkansas State Highway Commission v. Dixon, 247 Ark. 130, 444 S.W.2d 571. But whether due to ... Arkansas State Highway Commission v. Steed, 241 Ark. 950, ... 411 S.W.2d 17. If [251 Ark. 771] ... ...
  • City of Ft. Smith v. Findlay
    • United States
    • Arkansas Court of Appeals
    • March 1, 1995
    ...and is left to an action in tort against non-immune parties only if negligence is involved. See Arkansas State Hwy. Comm'n v. Steed, 241 Ark. 950, 957, 411 S.W.2d 17, 21 (1967). At trial, appellees argued that the damages to their house "inevitably or necessarily" flowed from the constructi......
  • Drummond Coal Co. v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • July 14, 1989 the time of the condemnation, supports our conclusion, as do precedents from other jurisdictions. See Arkansas State Highway Comm'n v. Steed, 241 Ark. 950, 411 S.W.2d 17 (1967) (lessees entitled to present evidence of value of crops); State ex rel. Symms v. Nelson Sand & Gravel, Inc., 93......
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