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State Tax Commission of State of Arizona v. Magma Copper Company

Supreme Court of Arizona

November 16, 1932

MAGMA COPPER COMPANY, a Corporation, Appellee

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of the County of Pinal. E. L. Green, Judge. Judgment reversed and case remanded, with instructions.

Mr. K. Berry Peterson, Attorney General, Mr. Charles L. Strouss, Assistant Attorney General, and Mr. W. E. Truman, County Attorney, for Appellants.

Messrs. Rice & Mathews, for Appellee.


[41 Ariz. 98] LOCKWOOD, J.

Magma Copper Company, a corporation, hereinafter called plaintiff, brought suit against the State Tax Commission, hereinafter called the commission, and the county of Pinal, to review the valuation of plaintiff's producing mines for the year 1930, fixed by the Commission at some $14,000,000. The

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matter was heard before the court sitting without a jury, and, on March 2d, 1932, findings of fact and conclusions of law were filed, and a judgment fixing the value of the mine in question at $8,712,000 was duly rendered, and it was ordered that the county of Pinal refund the plaintiff the sum of $109,620.55, being the excess tax paid by plaintiff, as required by law, [41 Ariz. 99] as a condition precedent to the filing of this suit. From this judgment the defendants have appealed.

There are eight assignments of error, but the question raised by all eight is in effect the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the judgment, and we therefore consider them as one. The trial court in fixing the value of the mine in question followed the usual and correct rule of estimating the probable gross revenue to be received from the ore presumably contained in the mine; deducting therefrom the probable cost of extraction, reduction, and selling the product of the ore, including therein all factors of cost, and reducing the difference, which would be the net value of the product, to its present worth, based upon such net value and the length of time it would probably take to produce it. It is conceded, as it must be, that this formula is the proper one to be used in determining the actual cash value for taxation of a producing mine at any particular time. Defendants, however, contend that the trial court erred as a matter of law in its estimate of the cost of production in that it included in such cost some $4,100,000 as a future development cost which was not reasonably necessary for the extraction and reduction of the ore on which the gross value of the mine was based.

Plaintiff contends we cannot consider this objection because the findings of fact of the trial court on which defendants' contention is based are not properly findings of ultimate fact, but of evidentiary facts, and that this court cannot review such findings, but must confine itself to what plaintiff claims to be the only proper ultimate finding, to wit, that the cash value of the mine in question as of the date of the assessment for 1930 was $8,712,000, and no more.

We consider first, as a matter of practice, what the findings of a trial court should include. Section 3819, Revised Code 1928, reads in part as follows:

[41 Ariz. 100] ". . . The court may, and shall at the request of either party, make written findings of fact stating the facts found and the conclusions of law separately. . . ."

In determining the nature of these findings we must consider the purpose of making them at all. Obviously their only value is to make it possible for the appellate court to determine the theory upon which the trial court reached its judgment, so that it can be decided whether the judgment, as a matter of fact and law, is sustained by the record. We have consistently held that, when a trial court returns a general judgment without findings of fact, if there is any theory of the case upon which the judgment can be sustained and any reasonable evidence in the record supporting such theory, we will assume that the trial court has adopted that theory and believes the evidence supporting it, and that we will not disturb its judgment because other evidence in the record supports a theory of the case requiring a different judgment as a matter of law. It follows necessarily as a corollary that, if it appears affirmatively in the record that the facts found by the trial court, and on which its judgment is expressly based, are not sustained by the evidence, or as a matter of law would not sustain its judgment, we should reverse the case. If, therefore, findings of fact are made, they should be sufficient so that we may determine upon what presumptive state of facts the trial court rendered its judgment.

The question involved herein has been well discussed in the case of Apodaca v. Lueras, 34 N.M. 121, 278 P. 197, wherein the court says:

". . . It is the trial court's duty to make findings of the essential or determining facts, on which its conclusion in the case was reached, specific enough to enable this court to review its decision on the same ...

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