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San Manuel Copper Corp. v. Farrell

Supreme Court of Arizona

June 21, 1961

SAN MANUEL COPPER CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation, and Mammoth Livestock, Land & Commercial Company, an Arizona corporation, Appellants,
v.
Lee FARRELL and Marian Farrell, husband and wife, Appellees.

In Banc.

Rehearing Denied Oct. 3, 1961.

[89 Ariz. 350] Guynn, Twitty & Sievwright, Phoenix, for San Manuel Copper corporation.

Clark & Coker, Phoenix, and Tom Fulbright, Florence, for Mammoth Livestock, Land and Commercial Co., for appellants.

Stokes, Bagnall & Moring, Coolidge, Conner & Jones, and James M. Murphy, Tucson, for appellees.

UDALL, Justice.

This appeal is from a judgment of the superior court awarding appellees (hereinafter referred to as Farrells) $7,500 damages against appellants (hereinafter referred to as San Manuel and Mammoth) for wrongful eviction from approximately 300 acres of farm lands occupied by the Farrells under a sublease dated March 1, 1955. The sublease was executed between Farrells and Mammoth, the latter holding all the lands in question under lease from San Manuel.

[89 Ariz. 351] Immediately after the execution of the sublease dated March 1, 1955 the Farrells entered into possession of the premises and started to farm the land under the terms of the sublease. Most of what happened from then until the middle of September

Page 731

when the Farrells vacated the premises is vigorously disputed. Since the verdict of the jury was for the Farrells we need only determine whether there was sufficient evidence on the essential and contested points for the case to be submitted to the jury.

The essential points in appellants' argument on evidentiary issues are these:

(1) that one of the basic requirements of the sublease was that it be approved by San Manuel and that there was no evidence in the record from which the jury could be permitted to conclude that San Manuel ever gave its approval of the sublease;

(2) that even if the record supports a finding of San Manuel approval of the sublease the record will not support a finding that Farrells were evicted from the premises;

(3) that even if Farrells were evicted in contravention of a valid sublease the record will not support a finding that San Manuel was in any way responsible for or liable for the eviction;

(4) that there was no evidence that the appellees sustained any damages as a result of their claimed eviction; and finally

(5) that there was no evidence which would support a finding that Farrells were damaged to the extent of $7,500. There were in addition assignments of error relating to the admission of certain evidence and giving and failing to give certain instruction which will be discussed infra.

As to the existence of a valid sublease we think that when viewed in a light most favorable to sustaining the judgment of the trial court the evidence fully supports such finding. Mr. Farrell readily admitted that San Manuel never gave its written consent for the sublease but relies upon a theory of estoppel. We said in Holmes v. Graves, 83 Ariz. 174, 177, 318 P.2d 354, 356:

'Estoppel is quite generally predicated on conduct which injuces another to acquiesce in a transaction, and that other, in reliance thereon, alters his position to his prejudice. It has three elements. First, acts inconsistent with the claim afterwards relied on; second, action by the adverse party on the faith of such conduct; third, injury to the adverse party resulting from the repudiation of such conduct. See Kerby v. State, 62 Ariz. 294, 157 P.2d 698. Estoppel will be applied to prevent injustices, Munger v. Boardman, 53 Ariz. 271, 88 P.2d 536, and to transactions in which it would be unconscionable to permit a person to maintain[89 Ariz. 352] a position inconsistent with one in which he has aquiesced. 19 Am.Jur. 676, Estoppel, Section 62.'

Mr. Farrell's testimony alone is sufficient to support a finding of estoppel. Much, although not all, of his testimony on this point was corroborated. He testified that at a meeting held with San Manuel's manager on April 15, 1955, the sublease was discussed. The manager knew that the Farrells were in possession and were proceeding with the farming operations. Mr. Farrell's testimony was that at that meeting it was agreed the sublease would be approved and that formal drafting of the approval was to be held up pending a survey to establish an exact description of the premises. He further testified that he was told to go ahead and operate under the sublease and that with full knowledge that he was so doing San Manuel stood by and acquiesced in his expenditure of funds and labor in the farming operation until his eviction in September of that same year. This testimony, which the jury apparently ...


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