Liberty Coal Co. S. v. Bassett

Decision Date03 December 1929
Docket Number( No. 6637-A),( No. 6637
Citation108 W.Va. 293
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court
PartiesLiberty Coal Company et als., State, etc., Appellant, v. C. E. Bassett, Chairman, etc., et als.

1. Taxation Circuit Court's Order on Appeal From Decision

of Board of Equalization and Review Will Not be Reversed, When Supported by Substantial Evidence, Unless Plainly Wrong.

The order of the circuit court entered on an appeal from a decision of the board of equalization and review, will not be reversed when supported by substantial evidence unless plainly wrong, (p. 295.)

(Taxation, 37 Cyc, p. 1118, N. 8.)

2. Evidence Expert Testimony on Subject Requiring no Spe-

cial Training May be Disregarded.

The judgment of expert witnesses on a subject which requires no special training in order to understand the evidence thereon, may be disregarded, (p. 295.)

(Evidence, 26 C. J. § 69, p. 135, N. 50.)

3. Parties. Several Persons May Properly Join as Plaintiffs in

Suit for Purpose Common to All, Though They be Not Jointly Interested in Subject-Matter.

Several persons may properly join as plaintiffs in a suit brought for a purpose common to all, though they be not jointly interested in the subject matter of the litigation, (p. 298.)

4. Evidence Where Persons Owning Land of Like Quantity in

Severalty Unite as Plaintiffs for Common Purpose, Admissions Against Interest of Some as to Their Tracts May be Applied to All.

Where a number of persons owning lands of like quality in severalty, unite as plaintiffs for a purpose common to all the properties, the admissions against interest of some of the parties as to their tracts may be applied to all. (p. 295.)

5. Same Presumption That Public Officials Will Perform Their

Duty May be Rebutted.

While it is presumed that public officials will perform their duty, the presumption may be rebutted by proof to the contrary, (p. 297.)

6. Appeal and Error Evidence Not Before Lower Tribunal

Will Not be Considered on Appeal, Though Brought Into Record After Judgment by Agreement of Parties.

Evidence which was not before the lower tribunal will not be considered on appeal, even though brought into the record (after final judgment) by agreement of the parties, (p. 298.)

(Evidence, 22 C.'J. § 823, p. 730, N. 78.)

(Note: Parenthetical references, by Editors, C. J. Cyc. Not part of Syllabi.)

Appeal from Circuit Court, Marshall County.

Proceeding by the Liberty Coal Company and others against C. E. Bassett, chairman, and others, constituting the Board of Equalization and Review, and the State of West Virginia, to review valuation of their property by such board. Prom an order of the circuit court, the applicants and the State appeal.

Dismissed as to two appellants; affirmed as to others.

Everett F. Moore, Conaway & Conaway and Allan D. Williams, for Liberty Coal Company and others.

Lloyd Arnold, Prosecuting Attorney, for the State and Marshall county.

Hatcher, Judge:

This is a joint proceeding by twelve land owners of Marshall county who appealed to the circuit court from the vaiua-tion of their property by the board of equalization and review. The proceeding is now here upon the appeal of the state as well as the applicants from the order of the circuit court, by virtue of Acts of 1929, Chapter 55, amending Code, Chapter 29, section 129, which provides: "The state or any taxpayer shall have an appeal as a matter of right to the supreme court of appeals where the value of the property is fifty thousand dollars or more." The value of the property of one of the appellants, Bertha Coal & Coke Company, as fixed by the circuit court, is $12,125.00. The value of the property of another, Adaline Coal Company, as so ascertained, is $25,300.00. As neither of these values is as much as $50,-000.00 the appeal is dismissed as to these two companies.

The applicants are the owners of undeveloped coal land. It was proved at the hearing before the board of equalization and review that the coal in question is not of as high grade as much of the coal now produced in "West Virginia and cannot be profitably mined at the present time. The witnesses divided the property into two groups. The land proximate to river or railroad was termed "front land"; that remote from transportation facilities, "back land". In the opinion of the witnesses, the actual value of the "front land" was $15.00 and of the "back land" $10.00 an acre. The circuit court determined the value of the "front land" to be $25.00 and the "back land" to be $15.00 an acre. The land owners contend that there is no evidence justifying the values found by the lower court.

In this proceeding it is not of consequence that another court could fairly arrive at a different conclusion from the one herein, or that the weight of evidence is against the finding. It is our duty to uphold the lower tribunal if there is substantial evidence for the foundation of its judgment, unless it is plainly wrong. Gas Co. v. Pub. Service Comm., 73 W. Va. 571, 581-2-3.

The trial court took the view that it was not bound by the opinions of the witnesses as to the land values. We concur in that view. It is well settled that the unanimous judgments of expert witnesses on a subject such as this which requires no special knowledge in order to form an opinion from the facts, may be disregarded. "In many cases, expert evidence, though all tending one way, is not conclusive upon the court and jury, but the latter, as men of affairs, may draw their own inferences from the facts, and accept or reject the statements of experts; but such cases are where the subject of discussion is on the border line between the domain of general and expert knowledge, as, for instance, where the value of land is involved, or where the value of professional services is in dispute. There the mode of reaching conclusions from the facts when stated is not so different from the inferences of common knowledge that expert testimony can be anything more than a mere guide." Ewing v. Goods, 78 Fed. 442, 444. See, also, 22 C. J., sec. 823, p. 728, and cases under note 78, p. 730. Ten of the applicants made returns of their property to the assessor for taxation in 1929, which are in evidence. Eight of these returns are of "back" property. Two fix the valuation of the "back land" at $10.00, one at $12.00 and the remaining five at $15.00 an acre. The trial chancellor properly treated the returns as admissions against interest. Chicago & N. W. By. Co. v. Eveland, 285 Fed. 425; Bosenberger v. Motor Company, 145 Minn. 408. He was of opinion that since the land owners have made a common cause in this proceeding and have grouped all the "back land" together for the purpose of valuation, the value thereof as admitted by a majority of the owners of that class of property ($15.00 an acre) should be applied to all of the "back land", and so found. We concur in that finding.

In the two returns of "front" property the valuations were given at $15.00 per acre. The circuit court held in regard to the "front land" as follows: "By reason of its shallowness, its close proximity to...

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