Underwood Typewriter Co. v. City of Hartford

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBURPEE, J. (after stating the facts as above).
Citation122 A. 91,99 Conn. 329
PartiesUNDERWOOD TYPEWRITER CO. v. CITY OF HARTFORD.
Decision Date27 July 1923

122 A. 91

99 Conn. 329

UNDERWOOD TYPEWRITER CO.
v.
CITY OF HARTFORD.

Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut.

July 27, 1923


Appeal from Superior Court, Hartford County; Christopher L. Avery, Judge.

Application in the nature of an appeal by the Underwood Typewriter Company from the refusal of the board of relief of the City of Hartford to reduce the city tax assessors' valuation of certain property. From a judgment setting aside the board's action and reducing the valuation, the City appeals. Error, and new trial ordered.

Beach, J., dissenting.

In October, 1920, the plaintiff made out and handed to the assessors of the city of Hartford a sworn list of its property liable to taxation in that city on October 1, 1920, and included therein its main factory plant consisting of certain land and buildings, with their fixed equipment, but without any machinery or personal property therein. The area of the land is 315,776 square feet, and it occupies an entire square, bounded by three streets and Park river, and located in the manufacturing district of the city. There are 17 separate buildings, of heavy mill construction, and all but one built since 1905, and adapted especially to the plaintiff's business of manufacturing typewriters, and wholly occupied and used in their business. The external area of these buildings is 856,352 square feet. The total cost of the land and buildings alone was about $1,300,000, and the additional cost of the fixed equipment therein was $181,144. In the year 1920 these three items were carried on the books of the plaintiff at a valuation of $1,448,726. This plant is one of the largest manufacturing plants in the city of Hartford. Before October of the year 1920, business conditions in Hartford had been changing, and the demand for factory property was not as brisk as it had been theretofore. Since 1916, the cost of erecting such buildings as those of the plaintiff had increased from 90 to 100 per cent, and in the spring of 1920 the prices of labor and building materials of all kinds had risen to the highest point known in this country in many years. During the hearing on this application, [99 Conn. 332] there was no proof of sales of any plant similar in size and character to the plaintiff's plant, and it would have been difficult to find a purchaser for such a plant in October, 1920.

In the tax list of the year 1919, the assessors of the city of Hartford had set the valuation of this main factory plant of the plaintiff at $880,000. No addition thereto was made before October 1, 1920. In its list for 1920, the plaintiff placed the same valuation on this property. This valuation the assessors increased to $2,432,700, fixing the value of the land at $130,000 and of the buildings and fixed equipment therein at $2,302,700. From this assessment the plaintiff appealed to the board of relief of the city, which refused to make a reduction. Thereupon the plaintiff made this application to the superior court for relief. That court set aside the action of the board of relief, and reduced the assessment upon it to $1,700,000. [122 A. 92]

Robert P. Butler and Walter Stanley Schutz, both of Hartford, for appellant.

William BroSmith, Robert C. Dickenson, and Allan E. BroSmith, all of Hartford, for appellee.

BURPEE, J. (after stating the facts as above).

The question first presented to the superior court was whether the plaintiff, as it alleged in its application, was aggrieved by the action of the board of relief of the defendant city. General Statutes, § 1240. The action specified was its refusal to reduce the valuation of the plaintiff's main factory plant which the city tax assessors had made. Having heard the parties, the court found that the valuation was excessive, and that the refusal of the board of relief was erroneous. Consequently the plaintiff was aggrieved, and had the right to call upon the superior [99 Conn. 333] court to exercise its statutory powers " to grant such relief as shall to justice and equity appertain." General Statutes, § 1243. This the court proceeded to do, and after thorough investigation it reached its conclusion, stated in its judgment, that the " fair market value of * * * the land and buildings comprising the main factory plant, on October 1, 1920, was $1,700,000," and thereupon adjudged that that property be set at that amount in the plaintiff's tax list of that year. In its appeal to this court, the defendant claims that the court below erred in reaching this conclusion.

In its memorandum of decision, the court says:

" Section 1183 of the General Statutes provides that buildings used for manufacturing purposes ‘ shall be set in the list at their present true and actual valuation’ and by section 1197 the rule of valuation is established, as follows: ‘ The present true and just value of any estate shall be deemed by all assessors and Boards of Relief to be the fair, market value thereof, but not its value at a forced or auction sale.’ The fair market value, therefore, of this property as of October 1 1920, is the valuation at which it should be set in the list by the assessors."

Afterward it states in this memorandum that:

" The evidence in this case shows * * * that the fair market value of the land and buildings as of October 1, 1920 was $1,700,000."

In its judgment the court sets out the same fact in the same language as quoted above. In its finding of facts for this appeal, the court again explicitly recites that " the entire evidence established the fair market value of the property involved in this appeal" at $1,700,000. It is obvious, then, that the court below based its final judgment upon its conclusion respecting a fair market value of the property. In this, we think, there was error. [122 A. 93]

[99 Conn. 334] In the first place, upon examination of the record we fail to discover the evidence which establishes any market value of this property, or any evidence which can be reasonably construed to prove a fair market value within the recognized meaning of the term. Ordinarily market value means a price fixed by sales in the way of ordinary business, and is established when other property of the same kind has been bought and sold in so many instances that a value may reasonably be inferred. The term contains the conception of a market, or conditions, in which there may be found a willing seller and a willing and able purchaser. The phrase connotes selling and buying without constraint or compulsion. 26 Cyc. 819; 3 Words and Phrases (Second Series) p. 301; Century Dictionary. But the trial court has said, and the evidence before us supports its statement, that there was no proof of sales of property similar in kind and size to the plaintiff's property, and that it would have been difficult to find a purchaser of such property about October 1, 1920. Considering the magnitude of this property, its location, its cost, the purpose and use for which it was constructed, adapted, and exclusively occupied, and the impossibility of changing that purpose and use without great loss or expense, the conclusion is reasonable, if not inescapable, that there was no purchaser at that time who would be able and willing to pay for it any price which its owner could fairly be expected to accept. In fact, at that time there was no market for this property, and it did not have a value which was a fair market value within the proper and approved meaning of the term. Indeed, the plaintiff, its owner, did not undertake to show that it had. Its counsel asked one witness " What would be the fair reproduction price per square foot of that plant in 1920," and asked two others what in their opinion " was the just and true value" of the property [99 Conn. 335] at that time. No question relating to or involving fair market value was put to any witness.

Nor did the defendant attempt to offer such evidence. Two of its witnesses testified as to the replacement value only which they obtained by multiplying the inside area of the...

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45 practice notes
  • New England Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Public Utilities Commission
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • January 27, 1953
    ...27, 130 A. 507]; Central Realty Co. v. Board of Review, supra [110 W.Va. 437, 158 S.E. 537]; Underwood Typewriter Co. v. City of Hartford, 99 Conn. 329, 122 A. 91; Massachusetts General Hospital v. Inhabitants of Belmont, 233 Mass. 190, 124 N.E. 21; Somers v. City of Meriden, supra [119 Con......
  • National Folding Box Co. v. City of New Haven
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 30, 1959
    ...location has been bought and sold in so many instances that a value may reasonably be inferred. Underwood Typewriter Co. v. Hartford, 99 Conn. 329, 334, 122 A. 91. In other words, the best test is ordinarily that of market sales. Campbell v. New Haven, 101 Conn. 173, 185, 125 A. 650; New Ha......
  • Michael Todd Co. v. Los Angeles County
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 17, 1962
    ...ex rel. Wangelin v. St. Louis Bridge Co. (1934) 357 Ill. 245, 191 N.E. 300, 303(1); Underwood Typewriter Co. v. City of Hartford (1923) 99 Conn. 329, 122 A. 91, 94(5, 6); Essex Co. v. City of Lawrence (1913) 214 Mass. 79, 100 N.E. 1016, 1018 (3, Tested by this rule, the method of valuation ......
  • Lerner Shops of Conn., Inc. v. Town of Waterbury
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 25, 1963
    ...was no such application. '[T]he law never requires the impossible.' Underwood Typewriter Co. v. Hartford, 99 [151 Conn. 88] Conn. 329, 337, 122 A. 91, 94. Under § 12-118, the Page 477 court is empowered, in an appeal from the board of tax review, to grant such relief as 'to justice and equi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • New England Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Public Utilities Commission
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • January 27, 1953
    ...27, 130 A. 507]; Central Realty Co. v. Board of Review, supra [110 W.Va. 437, 158 S.E. 537]; Underwood Typewriter Co. v. City of Hartford, 99 Conn. 329, 122 A. 91; Massachusetts General Hospital v. Inhabitants of Belmont, 233 Mass. 190, 124 N.E. 21; Somers v. City of Meriden, supra [119 Con......
  • National Folding Box Co. v. City of New Haven
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 30, 1959
    ...location has been bought and sold in so many instances that a value may reasonably be inferred. Underwood Typewriter Co. v. Hartford, 99 Conn. 329, 334, 122 A. 91. In other words, the best test is ordinarily that of market sales. Campbell v. New Haven, 101 Conn. 173, 185, 125 A. 650; New Ha......
  • Michael Todd Co. v. Los Angeles County
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 17, 1962
    ...ex rel. Wangelin v. St. Louis Bridge Co. (1934) 357 Ill. 245, 191 N.E. 300, 303(1); Underwood Typewriter Co. v. City of Hartford (1923) 99 Conn. 329, 122 A. 91, 94(5, 6); Essex Co. v. City of Lawrence (1913) 214 Mass. 79, 100 N.E. 1016, 1018 (3, Tested by this rule, the method of valuation ......
  • Lerner Shops of Conn., Inc. v. Town of Waterbury
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 25, 1963
    ...was no such application. '[T]he law never requires the impossible.' Underwood Typewriter Co. v. Hartford, 99 [151 Conn. 88] Conn. 329, 337, 122 A. 91, 94. Under § 12-118, the Page 477 court is empowered, in an appeal from the board of tax review, to grant such relief as 'to justice and equi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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