Porras v. Craig

Decision Date11 July 1984
Docket NumberNo. C-2809,C-2809
Citation675 S.W.2d 503
PartiesI. David PORRAS, Petitioner, v. A. B. CRAIG, Respondent.
CourtTexas Supreme Court

Haynes & Boone, William R. Allensworth, David C. Mattka and Barbara E. McElroy, Dallas, A.D. Henderson, Palestine, for petitioner.

Martin & Thomas, Holloway Martin and Michael Thomas, Mexia, for respondent.

SPEARS, Justice.

This is a suit for title and damages to approximately two acres in Freestone County. Based on jury findings, the trial court awarded respondent A.B. Craig, the plaintiff below, title to the land, $7,000 in actual damages, and $50,000 in exemplary damages against defendant and petitioner, David Porras. The court of appeals affirmed. 665 S.W.2d 167. We reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand the cause to the trial court.

Craig is the owner of 24 acres in Freestone County. In 1982, petitioner Porras purchased approximately 2,600 acres adjacent to Craig's land for use as a ranch. Porras had his tract surveyed, bulldozed everything that the survey showed to be his property, including an existing fence and two acres on Craig's side of that fence, and built a new fence on the survey line. In so doing, Porras cut down a number of large trees, some as much as four feet in diameter. Porras never contacted Craig before clearing the land.

Craig filed suit for title and damages to the land on his side of the old fence. The jury found that Craig had title to the land in question by virtue of adverse possession; that finding is not in dispute here. The primary complaint is that there is no evidence to support the award of actual damages to the land.

In a suit for permanent damage to land, (which the parties agree this suit is), the measure of damages is the difference in the market value of the land immediately before and immediately after the trespass. Cummer-Graham Co. v. Maddox, 155 Tex. 284, 285 S.W.2d 932 (1956). The proper way of proving this difference in value is opinion testimony. State v. Carpenter, 126 Tex. 604, 89 S.W.2d 194 (1936); 2 R. Ray, Texas Law of Evidence Civil and Criminal § 1422 (3d ed 1980). Opinion testimony concerning these damages is subject to the same requirements as any other opinion evidence, with one exception: the owner of the property can testify to its market value, even if he could not qualify to testify about the value of like property belonging to someone else. State v. Berger, 430 S.W.2d 557 (Tex.Civ.App.--Waco 1968, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

Even an owner's testimony, however, is subject to some restrictions. In order for a property owner to qualify as a witness to the damages to his property, his testimony must show that it refers to market, rather than intrinsic or some other value of the property. This requirement is usually met by asking the witness if he is familiar with the market value of his property. Moody v. Castleberry, 151 S.W.2d 960 (Tex.Civ.App.--Texarkana 1941, no writ); Krenek v. South Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc., 502 S.W.2d 605 (Tex.Civ.App.--Corpus Christi 1973, no writ).

At trial, two witnesses testified concerning the reduction in market value of the land. Porras's expert witness testified that in his opinion the value of the land had been enhanced by the clearing operation. On the other hand, plaintiff Craig testified that he had been damaged $20,000. His testimony was as follows:

Q. Mr. Craig, what in your opinion was the value of the property immediately before the fencing, the bulldozing of the old fence, and the clearing operations of the Defendant, I. David Porras?

A. About Thirty-five thousand dollars.

Q. What in your opinion was the value of the property immediately after the bulldozing operations, the fencing and clearing of the property in question by Mr. I. David Porras?

A. About fifteen.

Q. Now there is a difference there of twenty thousand dollars, is that correct?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. I want you to tell the jury your reasons for the difference of twenty thousand dollars and how you arrived at it.

A. Well I bought this land to build a retirement home on and I am fifty-seven and my wife is fifty-six and she's not--she's crippled so she wants to get out in the country, too. And we bought that for that reason and now we are afraid to build out there. And the reason we're afraid is because of the exotic animals that will be put next to us. Also they patrol the fence with guns. A sign on their fence they'll shoot if you go across that fence. And about a month ago there was a fire started on the grass on my property and burned in under my trees and if my wife had been there by herself she couldn't have got away.

We hold that this testimony is no evidence of market value. We should not be understood as retreating from the general rule that an owner is qualified to testify about the market value of his property. Moreover, this is not just a case in which the lawyer failed to ask his client if he was familiar with the market value of the property. Instead, in this case the owner's testimony affirmatively showed that he referred to personal rather than market value. See Stinson v. Cravens, Dargan & Co., 579 S.W.2d 298 (Tex.Civ.App.--Dallas 1979, no writ). Mr. Craig was qualified to give an opinion of the market value of his land; he simply failed to do so.

Craig points out to this court that Porras did not object to the introduction of this testimony on the ground that it referred to personal rather than market value. Although Porras did not so object, the failure is immaterial. Irrelevant evidence, even when admitted without objection, will not support a judgment. Aetna Insurance Co. v. Klein, 160 Tex. 61, 325 S.W.2d 376 (1959). Craig also argues that the testimony set out above was relevant on the issue of exemplary damages, not actual. It is true that the testimony did go to prove heedless and reckless disregard on Porras's part. At the same time, however, the testimony also showed that Craig was not testifying about market value. The fact that the evidence was helpful to Craig in one regard does not limit its relevance in another adverse to him.

Because we have held that there was no evidence of actual damages, the award of exemplary damages must also fall. There was some evidence that Porras acted in heedless and reckless disregard of Craig's rights, and the jury so found. However, absent a sustainable award of actual damages, exemplary damages cannot be awarded in a trespass case. Giraud v. Moore, 86 Tex. 675, 26 S.W. 945 (1894); Phillips v. Wertz, 546 S.W.2d 902 (Tex.Civ.App.--Dallas 1977, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

Having held that Craig produced no evidence of the reduction in market value of his property, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals. We must now determine the proper disposition of the case. There was substantial evidence at trial that Craig was injured by Porras's activities. For instance, it was shown that a number of trees, some as much as four feet in diameter, were cut down. This evidence was properly admitted. Evidence of any fact that may reasonably affect the value of the land can be introduced into evidence. Spindar v. Lo-Vaca Gathering Co., 529 S.W.2d 63 (Tex.1975). However, there was no evidence of a reduction in market value. Porras's expert witness testified that, although it would be prohibitively expensive to replace the destroyed trees, the market value of the land had actually been increased.

In this situation, some courts have applied a conditional measure of damages, one contingent on a showing of no reduction in market value. If a defendant's cutting down shade or ornamental trees does not reduce the market value of the property, courts are authorized to award damages for the intrinsic value of the trees. Although this court has never addressed the intrinsic value rule, a number of courts of appeals have adopted it. See ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
194 cases
  • Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Ford
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 9 Febrero 2012
    ...change the ‘market value’ concept and permit him to substitute a ‘value to me’ standard for the accepted rule....”); Porras v. Craig, 675 S.W.2d 503, 504–505 (Tex.1984) (“In order for a property owner to qualify as a witness regarding the damages to his property, his testimony must show tha......
  • Rose v. Aaron (In re Rose)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas
    • 25 Agosto 2021
    ... ... belonging to someone else.” Justiss , 397 ... S.W.3d at 155 (quoting Porras v. Craig , 675 S.W.2d ... 503, 504 (Tex. 1984)); see Spaulding v. Sumrall , No ... 09-16-00153-CV, 2018 WL 2339619, at *5 (Tex ... ...
  • Strickland v. Kathryn
    • United States
    • Texas Supreme Court
    • 5 Abril 2013
    ...supra note 19. 27.16 S.W. 931. 28.Id. at 932. 29.Id. 30.Id. 31.Id. 32.Id. 33.Id. 34.Id. 35.962 S.W.2d 489 (Tex.1997). 36.675 S.W.2d 503 (Tex.1984). 37.369 S.W.2d 299 (Tex.1963). 38.Id. at 304–05. 39.Id. at 305. 40.Crisp v. Sec. Nat'l Ins. Co., 369 S.W.2d 326, 328 (Tex.1963). 41.675 S.W.2d a......
  • Teal Trading & Dev., LP v. Champee Springs Ranches Prop. Owners Ass'n
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • 5 Julio 2017
    ...See, e.g., Reid Road Mun. Util. Dist. No. 2 v. Speedy Stop Food Stores, Ltd. , 337 S.W.3d 846, 852–53 (Tex. 2011) ; Porras v. Craig , 675 S.W.2d 503, 504 (Tex. 1984). We agree that a property owner such as Mr. Floyd need not necessarily be designated or disclosed as an expert in order to te......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT