Jaramillo v. Anaconda Co.

Decision Date10 December 1962
Docket NumberNo. 6974,6974
Citation71 N.M. 161,376 P.2d 954
PartiesLouis O. JARAMILLO, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. The ANACONDA CO., Defendant-Appellant.
CourtNew Mexico Supreme Court

Matteucci, Gutierrez & Franchini, Albuquerque, for appellee.

Iden & Johnson, Richard G. Cooper, Albuquerque, for appellant.

McCULLOH, District Judge.

This is an action for damages to plaintiff's house alleged to be caused by blasting in connection with mining operations conducted by the defendant, at a point 2.89 miles distant from plaintiff's house. The case was tried before a jury and from a verdict and judgment in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant has appealed.

The house is located on high ground, originally consisting of two rooms constructed of adobe walls and a pitched tin roof on a foundation of rock and mud. In 1949 it was remodeled by plastering with mud, putting in a ceiling, adding a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bath and utility room. The foundation ranged from 10 inches to 18 inches wide, set 15 inches below ground level and extending eight or nine inches above ground level.

Defendant, in operating an open pit uranium mine, began blasting once a day in 1953, increased to two blasts a day in 1954, and from 1957 to the date of trial was blasting three times a day. Plaintiff noticed cracks in the walls in 1958, which became more and more aggravated as time passed.

The amount of explosives detonated in each blast averaged six thousand pounds of ammonium nitrate, ranging from a minimum of four thousand pounds to twelve thousand pounds. It was defendant's theory that the cracking of the plaster and walls was due to moisture or some cause other than the blasting.

Defendant's expert witness was a man highly qualified from training and experience in the field of explosives. He conducted experiments in plaintiff's house and by use of recognized data relative to explosives and their use at given distances without material damage, came to the conclusion and was of the opinion that the blasts could not have caused the damage.

Plaintiff and several neighbors testified that at times after hearing the explosions at defendant's mine they felt vibrations, dishes rattled and at times fell from shelves, a clock had fallen from the wall, window panes rattled, doors would swing, garage walls collapsed, and even tools in the garage would be moved.

Plaintiff also had experts who conducted experiments in the house and found some movement in the house resulting from the blasts. One expert of plaintiff was of the opinion that the cracks were caused, not from a single explosion, but were the result of the continued explosions for a long period of time. Plaintiff's expert witnesses were not as eminently qualified, perhaps, as defendant's expert witness. Yet the trial court allowed them to testify as experts and the jury had the right to consider their testimony, together with that of the defendant's expert and other evidence.

Defendant contends that the physical facts rule should prevail as shown by its expert witness, and that there was not substantial evidence by the plaintiff to show that the damage was proximately caused by the explosions.

It is thus apparent that here we have conflicting expert testimony based upon physical facts as well as the application of knowledge of scientific principles in the possession and control of the experts. This is not a case for application of the physical facts doctrine. In this connection see: Crocker v. Johnston, 43 N.M. 469, 95 P.2d 214; Ortega v. Koury, 55 N.M. 142, 227 P.2d 941; and Alexander v. Cowart, 58 N.M. 395, 271 P.2d 1005; and 20 Am.Jur., Evidence, Sec. 1184, p. 1035.

In point II the defendant contends that testimony by lay persons concerning effects of the blasting in the neighborhood of plaintiff's house, should have been excluded. Plaintiff and his expert witnesses testified that the blasts caused the damage to plaintiff's house. The testimony of neighbors in the vicinity concerning the effects of the blasts on property near the plaintiff's merely served to corroborate the expert...

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8 cases
  • Davis v. L & W Const. Co.
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • April 7, 1970
    ...Such facts should not be withheld from the jury, as they would assist its deliberations.' See also in this regard Jaramillo v. Anaconda Co., 71 N.M. 161, 376 P.2d 954, 955; 31 Am.Jur.2d, Explosions and Explosives, section 98, pages 869, 870; and 29 Am.Jur.2d, Evidence, section 298, page 342......
  • Wood v. Citizens Standard Life Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court
    • January 25, 1971
    ...of this question will not be disturbed on appeal, unless there has been an abuse of this discretion. Jaramillo v. Anaconda Company, 71 N.M. 161, 376 P.2d 954 (1962); Transwestern Pipe Line Company v. Yandell, 69 N.M. 448, 367 P.2d 938 (1961); Sturgeon v. Clark, 69 N.M. 132, 364 P.2d 757 (19......
  • Malczewski v. McReynolds Const. Co.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • April 9, 1981
    ...court has wide discretion in determining whether one offered as an expert witness is competent and qualified." Jaramillo v. Anaconda Co., 71 N.M. 161, 164, 376 P.2d 954 (1962). Defendant objected to Dr. Dillman's qualifications on the ground that Dr. Dillman "is not or has not been trained ......
  • Benyo v. Kaiser-Nelson Corp., KAISER-NELSON
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • September 28, 1965
    ...relevant to the causal connection between the plaintiff's damage and the blast set off by the defendant. See Jaramillo v. Anaconda Co., 71 N.M. 161, 376 P.2d 954; 35 C.J.S. Explosives § 11(7), p. 306; 45 A.L.R.2d 1122. In blasting damage cases it has been held that evidence is admissible to......
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