Monday, May 15, 2006

Owner of Trespassing Cattle Liable for Damage

Harsh v. Cure Feeders, L.L.C., 116 P.3d 1286 (Colo. Ct. App. 2005)

Harsh owned nine fields comprising 165 acres with center point irrigation, and he raised corn on them. The fields were protected by a barbed wire and an electrified fence. Cure Feeders put cattle to pasture on the adjoining lands. The cattle broke through the fence, spreading out onto irrigated and unirrigated areas and also causing the loss of a large amount of prepared fertilizer.

Harsh sued Cure to recover the yield difference between the undamaged and damaged areas of his cornfield based on a projection of anticipated yield. The trial court concluded that Harsh had not adequately documented his deductible costs he was not entitled to recovery, and the court also denied the claim for damages for the spilled fertilizer.

The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed, saying that the correct measure of damages in a case where the crop is not completely destroyed was correctly stated in Blossom v. San Luis Valley Crop Care, Inc., 596 P.2d 1189 (Colo. 1979). That case stands for the proposition that when a crop is partially destroyed, the measure of damages can be adequately demonstrated by comparisons, which the plaintiff had demonstrated at trial.

On the issue of liability for the spilled fertilizer, the Court of Appeals also reversed, holding that the fence law was applicable to the controversy, which included liability for damage that the trespassing cattle caused while in Harsh's cornfield.


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