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Law School Case Brief

Watt v. Nev. C. R.R. - 23 Nev. 154, 44 P. 423 (1896)


It is well settled that the cost of replacing other property for property destroyed is not the criterion of damages, but it is the actual value of the property at the time and place it was destroyed. But where the value of the property destroyed is the criterion of the amount of damages to be awarded, and the property had no market value at the place of its destruction, then all such pertinent facts and circumstances as tend to establish its real and ordinary value at the time of destruction are admissible in evidence; such facts as will furnish the jury or court with such pertinent data as will enable them reasonably and intelligently to arrive at a fair valuation, and are all elements of proof to be considered by them.


While a railroad engine owned by defendant Nevada Central Railroad Company ("NCRR") was travelling across plaintiff George Watt's land, it emitted sparks and coals, which caused a fire that destroyed Watt's hay and a hay press. Watt filed a lawsuit in Nevada state court to recover damages for the loss. After a bench trial, the trial court awarded Watts $ 10,060 damages, the value of the property destroyed, and $ 1289.70 costs. NCRR appealed.


Were the damages awarded by the trial court for Watt's lost property sufficiently supported by evidence?




On appeal, the court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for a new trial. The court held that: (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court's findings that the engine could have been equipped with a safety device to prevent the emitting of sparks and coals, that there was rubbish on the right of way that NCRR should have cleared, and that the engine caused the fire; (2) the evidence given at trial was insufficient to support the finding that 976 tons of hay were destroyed; (3) the evidence was insufficient to sustain the finding that the value of the hay destroyed was $ 10 per ton; and (4) the evidence was insufficient to sustain the finding of the value of the hay press to be $ 200, as there was no  evidence tending to show any greater value of the press than its cost at Watt's ranch.

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