California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)
3903J. Damage to Personal Property (Economic Damage)
[Insert number, e.g., "10."] The harm to [name of plaintiff]'s [item of personal property].
To recover damages for harm to personal property, [name of plaintiff] must prove the reduction in the [item of personal property]'s value or the reasonable cost of repairing it, whichever is less. [If there is evidence of both, [name of plaintiff] is entitled to the lesser of the two amounts.]
To determine the reduction in value, you must determine the fair market value of the [item of personal property] before the harm occurred and then subtract the fair market value of the [item of personal property] immediately after the harm occurred.
"Fair market value" is the highest price that a willing buyer would have paid to a willing seller, assuming:
1. That there is no pressure on either one to buy or sell; and
2. That the buyer and seller are fully informed of the condition and quality of the [item of personal property].
[If you find that [name of plaintiff]'s [item of personal property] cannot be completely repaired, the damages are the difference between its value before the harm and its value after the repairs have been made, plus the reasonable cost of making the repairs. The total amount awarded must not exceed the [item of personal property]'s value before the harm occurred.]
Sources and Authority
"The general rule is that the measure of damages for tortious injury to personal property is the difference between the market value of the property immediately before and immediately after the injury, or the reasonable cost of repair if that cost be less than the diminution in value. This rule stems from the basic code section fixing the measure of tort damage as 'the amount which will compensate for all the detriment proximately caused thereby.' [citations]" (Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Mounteer (1977) 66 Cal.App.3d 809, 812 [136 Cal.Rptr. 280].)
"It has also been held that the price at which a thing can be sold at public sale, or in the open market, is some evidence of its market value. In San Diego Water Co. v. San Diego, the rule is announced that the judicial test of market value depends upon the fact that the property in question is marketable at a given price, which in turn depends upon the fact that sales of similar property have been, and are being, made at ascertainable prices. In Quint v. Dimond, it was held competent to prove market value in the nearest market." (Tatone v. Chin Bing (1936) 12 Cal.App.2d 543, 545-546 [55 P.2d 933], internal citations omitted.)
" 'Where personal property is injured but not wholly destroyed, one rule is that the plaintiff may recover the depreciation in value (the measure being the difference between the value immediately before and after the injury), and compensation for the loss of use.' In the alternative, the plaintiff may recover the reasonable cost of repairs as well as compensation for the loss of use while the repairs are being accomplished. If the cost of repairs exceeds the depreciation in value, the plaintiff may only recover the lesser sum. Similarly, if depreciation is greater than the cost of repairs, the plaintiff may only recover the reasonable cost of repairs. If the property is wholly destroyed, the usual measure of damages is the market value of the property." (Hand Electronics, Inc. v. Snowline Joint Unified School Dist. (1994) 21 Cal.App.4th 862, 870 [26 Cal.Rptr.2d 446], internal citations omitted.)
The cost of replacement is not a proper measure of damages for injury to personal property. (Hand Electronics, supra, 21 Cal.App.4th at p. 871.)
"When conduct complained of consists of intermeddling with personal property 'the owner has a cause of action for trespass or case, and may recover only the actual damages suffered by reason of the impairment of the property or the loss of its use.' " (Itano v. Colonial Yatch Anchorage (1968) 267 Cal.App.2d 84, 90 [72 Cal.Rptr. 823], internal citations omitted.)
"The measure of damage for wrongful injury to personal property is that difference between the market value of the property immediately before and immediately after the injury, or the reasonable cost of repair if such cost be less than the depreciation in value." (Smith v. Hill (1965) 237 Cal.App.2d 374, 388 [47 Cal.Rptr. 49], internal citations omitted.)
"[I]t is said . . . that 'if the damaged property cannot be completely repaired, the measure of damages is the difference between its value efore the injury and its value after the repairs have been made, plus the reasonable cost of making the repairs. The foregoing rule gives the plaintiff the difference between the value of the machine before the injury and its value after such injury, the amount thereof being made up of the cost of repairs and the depreciation notwithstanding such repairs.' The rule urged by defendant, which limits the recovery to the cost of repairs, is applicable only in those cases in which the injured property 'can be entirely repaired.' This latter rule presupposes that the damaged property can be restored to its former state with no depreciation in its former value." (Merchant Shippers Association v. Kellogg Express and Draying Co. (1946) 28 Cal.2d 594, 600 [170 P.2d 923], internal citations omitted.)
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (9th ed. 1988) Torts, §§ 1449-1452, pp. 925-927
4 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 52, Medical Expenses and Economic Loss, § 52.31 (Matthew Bender)
California Tort Damages (Cont.Ed.Bar 1988) Vehicles and Other Personal Property, §§ 13.8-13.11
15 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 177, Damages (Matthew Bender)
6 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 65, Damages (Matthew Bender)
1 Bancroft-Whitney's California Civil Practice (1992) Torts, § 5:16
(New September 2003)