California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

3903J. Damage to Personal Property (Economic Damage)

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3903J.Damage to Personal Property (Economic Damage)
[Insert number, e.g., “10.”]The harm to [name of plaintiff]’s [item of
personal property, e.g., automobile].
To recover damages for harm to personal property, [name of plaintiff]
must prove the reduction in the [e.g., automobile]’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.]
[However, if you fin that the [e.g., automobile] can be repaired, but
after repairs it will be worth less than it was before the harm, the
damages are (1) the difference between its value before the harm and its
lesser value after the repairs have been made; plus (2) the reasonable
cost of making the repairs. The total amount awarded may not exceed
the [e.g., automobile]’s value before the harm occurred.]
To determine the reduction in value if repairs cannot be made, you
must determine the fair market value of the [e.g., automobile] before the
harm occurred and then subtract the fair market value 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 [e.g., automobile].
New September 2003; Revised December 2011, June 2013, December 2015
Directions for Use
Do not give this instruction if the property had no monetary value either before or
after injury. (See Kimes v. Grosser (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 1556, 1560 [126
Cal.Rptr.3d 581] [CACI No. 3903J has no application to prevent proof of out-of-
pocket expenses to save the life of a pet cat].) See CACI No. 3903O, Injury to Pet
(Economic Damage).
Give the optional second paragraph if the property can be repaired, but the value
after repair may be less than before the harm occurred. (See Merchant Shippers
Association v. Kellogg Express and Draying Co. (1946) 28 Cal.2d 594, 600 [170
P.2d 923].)
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
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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 fixin the measure of tort damage as ‘the amount which will
compensate for all the detriment proximately caused thereby.’ [citations]”
(Pacifi 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 Unifie 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 Inc., 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 Yacht 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 before 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
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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, supra, 28 Cal.2d at p. 600,
internal citations omitted.)
• “In personal property cases, plaintiffs are entitled to present evidence of the cost
of repairs even in cases where recovery is limited to the lost market value of
property. The cost of repairs constitutes a prima facie measure of damages, and
it is the defendant’s burden to respond with proof of a lesser diminution in
value.” (Kimes, supra, 195 Cal.App.4th at p. 1560, internal citation omitted.)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 1718, 1719
Haning et al., California Practice Guide: Personal Injury, Ch. 3-C, Specifi Items Of
Compensatory Damages, ¶ 3:220 et seq. (The Rutter Group)
California Tort Damages (Cont.Ed.Bar) Vehicles and Other Personal Property,
§§ 13.8–13.11
4 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 52, Medical Expenses and Economic Loss,
§ 52.31 (Matthew Bender)
15 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 177, Damages, §§ 177.41,
177.44 (Matthew Bender)
6 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 64, Damages: Tort, § 64.26 et seq.
(Matthew Bender)
1 California Civil Practice: Torts § 5:16 (Thomson Reuters)
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