Nestle v. City of Santa Monica

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtMOSK; WRIGHT, C.J., PETERS and TOBRINER, JJ., and KAUS; BURKE; McCOMB; SULLIVAN
Citation496 P.2d 480,6 Cal.3d 920,101 Cal.Rptr. 568
Parties, 496 P.2d 480, 4 ERC 1080, 2 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,417 Ira NESTLE et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CITY OF SANTA MONICA, Defendant and Respondent. L.A. 29940. In Bank
Decision Date28 April 1972

Page 568

101 Cal.Rptr. 568
6 Cal.3d 920, 496 P.2d 480, 4 ERC 1080, 2 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,417
Ira NESTLE et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
CITY OF SANTA MONICA, Defendant and Respondent.
L.A. 29940.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
April 28, 1972.
Rehearing Denied June 7, 1972.

Page 569

[496 P.2d 481] [6 Cal.3d 923] Fadem & Kanner, Michael M. Berger, Jerrold A. Fadem and Gideon Kanner, Beverly Hills, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Richard L. Knickerbocker and Christina J. New, City Attys., Santa Monica, Brill, Hunt, DeBuys & Burby, MacDonald, Halsted & Laybourne, Mitchell L. Lathrop, Milnor E. Gleaves, Los Angeles, for defendant and respondent.

Roger Arnebergh, City Atty., Los Angeles, Milton N. Sherman, Asst. City Atty., and James H. Pearson, Deputy City Atty., as Amici Curiae on behalf of defendant and respondent.

[6 Cal.3d 924] MOSK, Justice.

Appellants are 37 of over 700 plaintiffs who brought suit against the City of Santa Monica ('defendant') for injuries alleged

Page 570

[496 P.2d 482] to have been suffered by virtue of defendant's operation of the Santa Monica Airport. 1 This action vividly demonstrates the difficulties encountered in engrafting traditional common law theories of recovery onto proceedings involving injuries peculiarly contemporary in nature. (See Kramon, Noise Control: Traditional Remedies and a Proposal for Federal Action (1969) 7 Harv.J.Legis. 533; Malley, The Supersonic Transport's Sonic Boom Cost: A Common Law Approach (1969) 37 Geo.Wash.L.Rev. 683.) Despite the dilemma, however, we recall Justice Cardozo's admonition that '(t)hose who would earn (the common law's) best rewards must make their knowledge as deep as the science and as broad and universal as the culture of their day.' (Selected Writings of Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (Hall ed. 1947) p. 88.)

Plaintiffs instituted this action to recover for both property and personal injury damages caused by defendant's operation of the airport. Specifically, they claim that vibration, fumes, and noise emanating from jet aircraft landing and taking off at the airport caused damage to their property, interfered with the free enjoyment of their property and resulted in physical pain, suffering and emotional disturbance. They asserted four theories of recovery: (1) inverse condemnation, (2) nuisance, (3) negligence, and (4) zoning violations.

At trial the parties agreed to a procedure by which the court, immediately prior to the commencement of trial, would rule on the legal sufficiency of counts II, III, and IV. The court reserved its ruling on the nuisance theory (II) and held that the counts for negligence (III) and zoning violations (IV) failed to state causes of action. The court denied appellants leave to amend the latter two counts.

Trial was commenced with both parties presenting evidence as to the value of appellants' properties both before and after the stipulated valuation date of July 1, 1966. Appellants produced expert opinion that the value of the 10 parcels had suffered diminution due to jet noise, fumes and vibration. The amount of decrease, according to appellants' witness, ranged from 4 percent to 20 percent of the pre-July 1 value of the respective parcels. Furthermore, appellants introduced substantial evidence that the noise [6 Cal.3d 925] to which the homeowners have been subjected is 'intolerable' and 'monstrous' and 'untenable' for human habitation. Defendant's appraiser, utilizing the same general approach of determining values before and after July 1, concluded that none of the properties had been diminished in value as of that date by exposure to jet noise, fumes, and vibration.

After trial, the court found for defendant on count I (inverse condemnation), concluding that appellants had failed to establish that their properties had been damaged. The court then ruled that appellants' count II for nuisance failed to state a cause of action. Thereupon judgment was entered for defendant on the inverse condemnation count and counts II, III, and IV were dismissed.

On appeal, appellants' principal contentions are: (1) the evidence is not sufficient to support a judgment for defendant on the inverse condemnation action; (2) appellants suffered prejudicial error when counsel for defendant failed to comply with the court's pretrial order requiring a complete exchange of appraisal reports; and (3) the trial court erred in dismissing counts II, III, and IV.

Inverse Condemnation

Appellants' two contentions in regard to the cause of action for inverse condemnation

Page 571

[496 P.2d 483] --insufficiency of the evidence and unfair exchance of appraisal reports--are necessarily interlaced: even if the evidence were otherwise sufficient to support a judgment for defendant, if defendant failed to comply with the trial court's mutual exchange order, appellants may have been handicapped in cross-examining defense witnesses and in introducing their own evidence. Full exchange of reports might, in such circumstances, have enabled appellants to elicit testimony from which a reviewing court could conclude there was insufficient evidence to support the judgment.

In resolving the issue of the sufficiency of the evidence, we are bound by the established rules of appellate review that all factual matters will be viewed most favorably to the prevailing party (Leming v. Oilfields Trucking Co. (1955) 44 Cal.2d 343, 346, 282 P.2d 23; Bancroft-Whitney Co. v. McHugh (1913) 166 Cal. 140, 142, 134 P. 1157; 6 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (1971) § 245, at p. 4236) and in support of the judgment (Waller v. Brooks (1968) 267 Cal.App.2d 389, 394, 72 Cal.Rptr. 228). All issues of credibility are likewise within the province of the trier of fact. (Estate of Teel (1944) 25 Cal.2d 520, 526, 154 P.2d 384.) 'In brief, the appellate court ordinarily Looks only at the evidence supporting the successful party, and disregards the contrary showing.' (6 Witkin, Cal. Procedure, supra, § 249, at p. 4241.) All conflicts, therefore, [6 Cal.3d 926] must be resolved in favor of the respondent. (Crawford v. Southern Pacific Co. (1935) 3 Cal.2d 427, 429, 45 P.2d 183.)

Cognizant of these rules controlling appellate review, we now turn to the evidence to determine whether it was sufficient to sustain the court's decision. Appellants, in presenting their inverse condemnation case at trial, essentially offered two categories of testimony: first, evidence as to the existence of excessive noise levels near the airport; second, evidence as to the diminution in the value of the homeowners' properties. At the onset it must be noted that the first category of evidence was employed in order to demonstrate the existence of the ultimate fact of a decrease in property value. It would appear that appellants could not rest solely on even massive and uncontradicted evidence of excessive noise levels occasioned by the use of jet aircraft to prove a decrease in property value. 2 In any event, appellants' evidence on excessive noise level was not unchallenged. Dr. Robert L. Watson, Jr., an ear, nose and throat specialist, testified that none of the 15 individuals he examined suffered any hearing loss. From this the trial court could properly infer that the noise level was not excessive and accordingly did not diminish the value of appellants' land. Dr. Watson also testified that a noise exposure of 110 decibels over a time period of 150 seconds per day at intervals of 20 seconds each, over a three-year period would not cause hearing loss. 3 Similarly, from such testimony

Page 572

[496 P.2d 484] the trial judge could have concluded that such occasional noise increases were insufficient to cause property damage.

[6 Cal.3d 927] While Dr. Watson's testimony alone creates a factual conflict with the impressive scientific data submitted by appellants on the subject of the level of noise near the airport, defendant also introduced a vast quantity of evidence on the ultimate issue of property damage. Elbridge Tucker, a member of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers, who has a master's degree in agricultural economics, testified for more than four days on the value of the properties in question. Cross-examination took another three days. This was followed by both redirect and recross.

Mr. Tucker painstakingly provided testimony on each of the 10 representative parcels, concluding that none suffered any diminution in value as a result of the operations of jet aircraft. Whenever applicable, he described the property, its topography, the access streets, the availability of utilities, the uses for which it was zoned, the improvements made on the property, the chronology of any remodeling of those improvements and the condition of the property. Finally, he testified as to the result of the comparable sales approach he employed in appraising the property.

For example, with respect to parcel 6, his conclusions were 'based on sales over a period of time, on sales occurring from . . . two and a half years prior to the middle of 1966 and about the same time following, or perhaps more likely two years following, (in which he) found no influence on the market from jet operations during that period of time.' With regard to parcel 7, Mr. Tucker testified: 'My opinion was developed on the basis of the sales in the particular tract, plus the study of sales in other areas, plus the other basic investigations which I made relating to market activity and price of residences in the general area. All of my investigation was used as a basis for developing this final opinion of value.' At the close of his testimony on the 10 parcels, he explained the general method by which he reached the conclusion of no property damage. That process, in part, is set forth in the margin. 4

Page 573

[496 P.2d 485] [6 Cal.3d 928] Applying the general principles of appellate review set forth previously to the evidence proffered by defendant, we conclude there was substantial evidence to support the...

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489 practice notes
  • Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Mayo 1981
    ...favorable to them. (Aceves v. Regal Pale Brewing Co., 24 Cal.3d 502, 507, 156 Cal.Rptr. 41, 595 P.2d 619; Nestle v. City of Santa Monica, 6 Cal.3d 920, 925, 101 Cal.Rptr. 568, 496 P.2d 119 Cal.App.3d 773] The Accident: In November 1971, the Grays purchased a new 1972 Pinto hatchback manufac......
  • Marriage of Bonds, In re, Nos. A075328
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 12 Abril 1999
    ...principle of appellate review that the factual findings of the trial court are presumed correct. (Nestle v. City of Santa Monica (1972) 6 Cal.3d 920, 925 [101 Cal.Rptr. 568, 496 P.2d 480] ...; Heard v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 1735, 1747 [52 Cal.Rptr.2d 620]...." ......
  • Sanders v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 5 Enero 1977
    ...407, 248 P.2d 471, 473; other citations omitted.)' (3 Cal.3d at p. 881, 92 Cal.Rptr. 166. See also Nestle v. City of Santa Monica (1972) 6 Cal.3d 920, 925, 101 Cal.Rptr. 568, 496 P.2d 480; Herman Christensen & Sons, Inc. v. Paris Plastering Co., supra, 61 Cal.App.3d 237, 253, 132 Cal.Rptr. ......
  • Scott v. County of Los Angeles, No. B067514
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Julio 1994
    ...the substantial evidence standard and will disturb the finding only if unsupported by the evidence. (Nestle v. City of Santa Monica (1972) 6 Cal.3d 920, 925, 101 Cal.Rptr. 568, 496 P.2d 480; Von Beltz v. Stuntman, Inc. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1467, 1484, 255 Cal.Rptr. 755; Bradfield v. Trans ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
488 cases
  • Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Mayo 1981
    ...favorable to them. (Aceves v. Regal Pale Brewing Co., 24 Cal.3d 502, 507, 156 Cal.Rptr. 41, 595 P.2d 619; Nestle v. City of Santa Monica, 6 Cal.3d 920, 925, 101 Cal.Rptr. 568, 496 P.2d 119 Cal.App.3d 773] The Accident: In November 1971, the Grays purchased a new 1972 Pinto hatchback manufac......
  • Marriage of Bonds, In re, Nos. A075328
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 12 Abril 1999
    ...principle of appellate review that the factual findings of the trial court are presumed correct. (Nestle v. City of Santa Monica (1972) 6 Cal.3d 920, 925 [101 Cal.Rptr. 568, 496 P.2d 480] ...; Heard v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 1735, 1747 [52 Cal.Rptr.2d 620]...." ......
  • Sanders v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 5 Enero 1977
    ...407, 248 P.2d 471, 473; other citations omitted.)' (3 Cal.3d at p. 881, 92 Cal.Rptr. 166. See also Nestle v. City of Santa Monica (1972) 6 Cal.3d 920, 925, 101 Cal.Rptr. 568, 496 P.2d 480; Herman Christensen & Sons, Inc. v. Paris Plastering Co., supra, 61 Cal.App.3d 237, 253, 132 Cal.Rptr. ......
  • Scott v. County of Los Angeles, No. B067514
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Julio 1994
    ...the substantial evidence standard and will disturb the finding only if unsupported by the evidence. (Nestle v. City of Santa Monica (1972) 6 Cal.3d 920, 925, 101 Cal.Rptr. 568, 496 P.2d 480; Von Beltz v. Stuntman, Inc. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1467, 1484, 255 Cal.Rptr. 755; Bradfield v. Trans ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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