Reversed with directions.
Jennings, Strouss, Salmon & Trask, of Phoenix, Attorneys for appellant.
Harold E. Whitney, of Phoenix, and Alexander B. Baker, Phoenix, of counsel, for appellees.
Udall, Chief Justice. Stanford, Phelps, De Concini and La Prade, JJ., concur.
Udall, Chief Justice.
[74 Ariz. 188] This is an appeal by J. C. Higgins (defendant-appellant), from a judgment of the lower court determining the value of a certain caterpillar tractor owned by Guerin Bros. (plaintiffs-appellees) and awarding damages for its detention. The parties will hereafter be referred to as they were in the trial court.
The matter is before us for the second time. On the first appeal, Guerin v. Higgins, 70 Ariz. 219, 218 P.2d 870, 875 we reversed the judgment of the trial court in favor of defendant Higgins and held that plaintiffs, Guerin Bros., were the rightful owners of the tractor and equipment in dispute. The case was remanded for a new trial with directions to ascertain "the value of the tractors at the date of trial and of establishing what damages, if [74 Ariz. 189] any, the plaintiffs have sustained as a result of the detention of said tractors by the defendants." The basic facts are set forth in the original opinion.
Defendant Harold Freeland made no appearance at the second hearing, judgment went against him, and he is not a party to the present appeal.
Upon the retrial, the lower court, sitting without a jury, found the value of the tractor -- as of the date of the first trial -- to be $ 8500, and fixed damages for its detention at $ 10,000. Judgment for the plaintiffs and against the defendant for these amounts, with costs, was regularly entered on March 30, 1951, and upon denial of defendant's motion for a new trial this appeal was taken. The plaintiffs, prior to the entry of judgment, filed a formal election to take the value of the property in lieu of the property itself.
In reality but two problems are presented under defendant's four assignments of error and supporting propositions of law, viz: (1) the legal effect of a formal stipulation by counsel in the original trial as to the value of the tractor in question, i.e., whether such stipulation is conclusive and binding upon the parties throughout the litigation, and (2) whether the trial court erred in its method of computing damages which allegedly resulted in the awarding to plaintiff of grossly excessive damages that are disproportionate to the value of the property.
As to the first point: the original complaint in replevin alleged the Higgins tractor and accessories to be of the value of $ 8500, and the prayer was for recovery of said property or this sum, plus damages of $ 10,000 for its detention and costs. At the first trial it appears that due to the absence of plaintiff H. T. Guerin counsel were "hard put" to prove value, whereupon the following stipulation was entered into:
"Mr. Baker: If the court please, it was stipulated between counsel that the value of the equipment named in the case against J. C. Higgins was the sum of $ 6000.00 at ...