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Gilliland v. Rodriquez

Supreme Court of Arizona

March 22, 1954

GILLILAND et al.
v.
RODRIQUEZ et ux.

Rehearing Denied April 13, 1954.

Page 335

[77 Ariz. 165] Wesley E. Polley, Bisbee, for appellants.

Daniel E. Moore, Bisbee, for appellees.

WINDES, Justice.

Sipriano Rodriquez and his wife purchased a house from a partnership consisting of Lowell Gilliland, Fred Davis and John Doe Davis, doing business as Inland Trading and Construction Company, under terms that required the trading company to deliver and place the house on Rodriquez' premises at a location staked out by him. An irrigation well with pump was located near the place so designated by Rodriquez. Over the well and pump was standing a pipe-pulling derrick held upright by three guy-wires. The trading company in order to set the house on the designated location decided it was necessary to release one of the guy-wires supporting the derrick. This being done, the same fell causing damage to the pump which necessitated its repair. Rodriquez and his wife, hereinafter designated plaintiffs, brought suit against the partnership and its members, hereinafter designated defendants, claiming they were negligent and asked damages for the repair of the pump and for loss of an onion and carrot crop because of inability to pump irrigation water. Plaintiffs having given defendants

Page 336

a promissory note and chattel mortgage in the sum of $487.05 which was past due at the time, defendants counterclaimed for the principal plus interest and ten percent attorney fees. The matter was tried before the court sitting without a jury, and the court made findings of fact and conclusions of law and awarded plaintiffs on their complaint the following:

  "a. Damage of pump          $   197.49
   b. Damage to carrot crop      1000.00
   c. Damage to onion crop       1240.00
   d. Damage on contract of
       purchase flooring           65.00
                               _________
                              $  2502.49"

The items of $197.49 and $65 are not in dispute and will not be further referred to. The court further gave defendants judgment on their counterclaim in the sum of $487.05 plus interest, offsetting one against the other, and thereby gave plaintiffs a net judgment of $1,947.33. Defendants appeal.

Plaintiffs' complaint charges defendants with negligence in the following language:

'* * * the defendants, and each of them, by the through their duly authorized employees and agents, so negligently and carelessly delivered said building, said negligent and careless delivery being contrary to the specific [77 Ariz. 166] instructions which the plaintiff had given to the defendants concerning the delivery, as to severely damage plaintiff's pump * * *'

The court's findings on the question of negligence are as follows:

'4. That the defendants' agent, Jack Gilliland, on the date on which the building was delivered to the plaintiffs in accordance with the contract made between plaintiffs and the defendants, made either no inspection of the pipe-pulling rig and guy wire supports for the same, at that time over a well belonging to plaintiffs; or if an inspection was made it was an inadequate inspection of said pipe-pulling rig and guy wire.

'5. That said agent, Jack Gilliland, while in the process of handling said building to defendants and carrying out the terms of said contract for the delivery of said building, loosened the tin buckle (meaning turn buckle) clamp for securing the main guy wire holding the pipe-pulling rig in an upright position, thereby causing the said pipe-pulling rig to fall on the plaintiffs' pump.'

The court also made what it designated as its conclusion of law No. 1 as follows:

'1. That the sole proximate cause of plaintiffs' damage to pump, carrot crop and onion crop was the negligence of the defendants' agent, Jack Gilliland, and the defendants and each of them are chargeable with the same.'

Whether an act of negligence is the proximate cause of an injury is an ultimate fact. Therefore, this so-called conclusion of law, though designated as such, will be treated as a finding of fact in testing the validity of the judgment. ...


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