Richter v. Walker

Decision Date26 January 1951
Citation226 P.2d 593,36 Cal.2d 634
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
PartiesRICHTER v. WALKER et al. Sac. 6000

Curtiss E. Wetter and Rawlins Coffman, Red Bluff, for appellant.

Alfred E. Frazier, Red Bluff, for respondents.

SCHAUER, Justice.

Plaintiff sued to foreclose a claimed mechanic's lien for $3,187.22, with interest, for labor performed and materials furnished assertedly under an oral contract to drill a water well on the land of defendants Donald Walker and Ona Walker. These defendants joined issue denying that plaintiff had performed his contract, and cross-complained for damages for breach of contract. The trial court determined that plaintiff had not performed the contract, that such work as was done had not been done in a good or workmanlike manner, and disallowed the lien; it did, however, allow plaintiff the sales price of a pump and motor sold to defendants ($1,350.50), deducting therefrom $653 which defendants had expended in an attempt to improve the well. Plaintiff, who appeals, contends that the evidence does not support the findings nor the findings the judgment. We have concluded that there is ample evidence to support the findings and that the findings, liberally construed, sustain the judgment.

Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that in March, 1947, he and defendants entered into an oral contract for the drilling of a well and the installing of a pump on defendants' property in Tehama County that he commenced work and first furnished material in connection therewith on the same day; and that he completed the work on June 27, 1947.

Defendants in their answer allege that in October, 1945, they entered into an oral contract with plaintiff whereby he agreed to drill a well on the premises to a depth of 200 feet, if necessary, and 'that such well would produce Six Hundred (600) gallons of water per minute'; it was further understood and agreed that defendants would seek to procure a government loan for the financing of the well. Defendants admit that plaintiff entered upon drilling operations on March 15, 1947, but allege that he failed to complete the well in accordance with specifications or in a workmanlike manner, and that, as a proximate result of the carelessness, inefficiency and negligence of plaintiff the well, as left by plaintiff, produced no more than 150 gallons a minute; that the pump installed by plaintiff was not the proper pump for the kind of well produced and was inefficient and too expensive for economical operation; that plaintiff was 'fully informed and advised and knew that the defendants were engaged in dairy business and other farming operation,' were contemplating extensive leveling work and were in need of the water in the quantity contracted for; that the well as constructed by plaintiff was 'of absolutely no value whatever to the defendants and for the defendant to continue their farming operations, they will have to drill an entirely new well.' Defendants then cross-complained, seeking damages of $12,653 for plaintiff's alleged breach of contract.

The trial court's findings, although not as specific or certain as could be desired, do determine that plaintiff agreed, in October, 1945, to drill the well at a cost of $5.00 a foot, furnish the casing therefor, and supply a proper pump and motor; such findings also determine that 'it was further agreed that said well would be drilled to a depth of two hundred feet if necessary to provide adequate water for the purposes of said Donald Walker (defendant) and that Paul Richter (plaintiff) would drill said well in a good and workmanlike manner and that said Paul Richter guaranteed the quality of his workmanship * * *. (T)hat said Paul Richter commenced work * * * pursuant to said oral contract on or about March 15, 1947, and thereafter drilled a hole in the premises of said Donald Walker and inserted certain casing therein, and thereafter * * * about March 22, 1947, completed all of his work concerning the said premises of Donald Walker; * * * supplied to the said Donald Walker and Ona Walker a certain Fairbanks-Morse pump and motor at an agreed price of $1350.50, and that the said sale of said pump and motor at said price was separate and distinct from the contract for the drilling of the said well. * * * That it is true that the said Paul Richter did not drill said well in a good or workmanlike manner, and * * * said well was and is defective; * * * Paul Richter, was fully informed and advised concerning the requirements of volume of water from said well to make said well economic and practicable and the amount of water so required was between four hundred fifty and five hundred gallons per minute; * * * that if said well had been drilled in a good and workmanlike manner, it might have produced the volume of water required; * * * that said well as drilled * * * failed to produce more than one hundred fifty gallons per minute, and it is true that such failure is partly due to the bad and unworkmanlike manner of drilling performed by the said Paul Richter; * * * that as produced by the said Paul Richter, the well is of slight or very little value to the defendants * * * and is of only slight value to the said premises * * * and does not constitute any improvement whatever to said premises.

'That it is true that immediately after the said Paul Richter ceased drilling operations at said well, he was informed by the cross-plaintiffs of the defective condition of said well and was given ample opportunity to improve said well and correct any errors made, but * * * thereupon failed and refused to do anything further concerning said well; * * * that after the repeated refusal of the said Paul Richter to improve said well or to make any effort to improve said well, the cross-plaintiffs * * * undertook to make improvements and expended the sum of Six Hundred Fifty-three Dollars * * * therefor. * * * (I)t is true that said well is valueless to any portion of the said premises.

'* * * (T)hat defendants * * * are indebted to the plaintiff * * * in the sum of * * * $1350.50 * * * purchase price for said * * * pump; that * * * cross-defendant, Paul Richter, is indebted to the defendants and crossplaintiffs * * * in the sum of * * * $653.00 * * * expended * * * to improve the said well.

'Except as otherwise specifically found, none of the allegations of the plaintiff's complaint are true, and all of the allegations and denials of the * * * Answer and Cross-complaint as amended are true.'

Upon the findings the court concluded that plaintiff was not entitled to a lien but was entitled to recover $697.50 with costs, and judgment was rendered accordingly. Plaintiff's main contentions are that there is not substantial evidence to support certain of the material findings, hereinafter particularly identified, and that the findings do not sustain the judgment rendered.

As to the principles governing appellate courts in considering the adequacy of findings to dispose of issues and support a judgment it is a general rule that 'Even though a finding might have been more clearly phrased, it is sufficient if its language is clear enough to indicate what the court intended; and if there are findings sufficient to support the judgment, they are not vitiated by the unintelligibility of others. Any uncertainty in the findings will be construed so as to support the judgment rather than to defeat it.' (24 Cal.Jur. 965, § 201.) Even where findings are to some extent inconsistent a judgment may not be set aside unless the conflict is clear and material and the findings incapable of being harmoniously construed. (See 24 Cal.Jur. 967, § 202, and cases there cited; see also 10 Cal.Jur.Ten Year Supp. 712, § 202 and cases cited.) Furthermore, general findings that all the allegations or denials of a pleading are true except those as to which the court makes a specific finding, are upheld if by reference to the pleading the import of the finding is reasonably certain. (See 24 Cal.Jur. 987, 988, § 214, and cases cited; see also cases cited in 10 Cal. Jur. Ten Year Supp. 717, 718.) It is also to be noted that while full findings are required upon all material issues a judgment will not be set aside on appeal because of a failure to make an express finding upon an issue if a finding thereon, consistent with the judgment, results by necessary implication from the express findings which are made. (See 24 Cal.Jur. 974, § 207, and cases cited.) And, of course, as to the sufficiency of evidence to support findings, it is the time honored rule that all substantial conflicts must be resolved in favor of the respondent, and all legitimate and reasonable inferences indulged into uphold the findings if possible. (Crawford v. Southern Pac. Co. (1935), 3 Cal.2d 427, 429, 45 P.2d 183; Estate of Bristol (1943), 23 Cal.2d 221, 223, 143 P.2d 689; see also Powell v. Pacific Electric Ry. Co. (1950), 35 Cal.2d 40, 216 P.2d 448.)

Specifically, plaintiff contends that the evidence does not support the finding that he did not drill the well in a good and workmanlike manner; his position is that the failure of the well was not due to his activity or lack of activity but rather to the lack of water in the ground. Treating first the necessarily implied finding that there was ample water underground, the record shows the following: Mr. Halle, an engineer with the Farmers Home Administration whose job it is to approve expenditures of government loan funds for various water facilities projects and who had inspected the Walker property and well, testified that in his opinion, based on inspection of wells in the surrounding community and his experience, if a well were properly drilled at the point where plaintiff drilled the well 'he should get a well there that would deliver around between four hundred and five hundred gallons a minute at a lift not to exceed ninety feet'; and that he, the witness, would be willing to recommend to the government and to ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
132 cases
  • DeMartini v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • May 7, 1963
    ...were duly filed. In Greenberg v. Hastie, supra, 202 Cal.App.2d 159, 173, 20 Cal.Rptr. 747, 756 we quoted from Richter v. Walker (1951) 36 Cal.2d 634, 640, 226 P.2d 593 as follows: '[W]hile full findings are required upon all material issues a judgment will not be set aside on appeal because......
  • Golde v. Fox
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • September 27, 1979
    ...668, at page 684: "In Greenberg v. Hastie, supra, 202 Cal.App.2d 159, 173, 20 Cal.Rptr. 747, 756, we quoted from Richter v. Walker (1951) 36 Cal.2d 634, 640, 226 P.2d 593 . . . as follows: ' "(W)hile full findings are required upon all material issues a judgment will not be set aside on app......
  • Auer v. Frank
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • May 25, 1964
    ...202 Cal.App.2d 498, 506-507, 21 Cal.Rptr. 75; Carmichael v. Carmichael, 216 Cal.App.2d 674, 679, 31 Cal.Rptr. 514; Richter v. Walker, 36 Cal.2d 634, 640, 226 P.2d 593.) As stated in Calloway v. Downie, 195 Cal.App.2d 348, 353, 15 Cal.Rptr. 747, 750: 'The prohibition of section 634 of the Co......
  • Weller v. Chavarria
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • March 25, 1965
    ...from the express finding that the Chavarrias were the owners of an undivided one-half interest in the roadway. (See Richter v. Walker (1951) 36 Cal.2d 634, 640, 226 P.2d 593; Greenberg v. Hastie (1962) 202 Cal.App.2d 159, 173, 20 Cal.Rptr. 747.) Plaintiff made no request for special finding......
  • 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