In my recent post on City of Corona v. Liston Brick Company of Corona, 2012 Cal. App. LEXIS 873, I took a few minutes to discuss the conflict under California law concerning what happens when one side presents a valuation opinion and the other does not. As I explained there, while I can see a basis for a rule that the jury must accept a single opinion of value OR a rule where the jury remains free to reach its own conclusion even if only one opinion is presented, I have a real problem with the current state of the law -- where sometimes the jury gets to decide and sometimes the judge directs a verdict at the single offered opinion.
Gideon Kanner has taken the time to offer his input on this issue, and the story he tells is so compelling that I couldn't resist doing a quick post to make sure everyone reading this blog has a chance to read what he has to say on the subject.
His post, An Old Valuation Conundrum Revisited, starts with a quote from my post, and then proceeds to tell a "war story" in an effort to prove that the correct answer here is obvious: the jury should always be allowed to judge the credibility of the witnesses and reach its own conclusion of value, even if only one opinion is offered into evidence.
You'll need to read the story for yourself, as any effort on my part to paraphrase it would fall woefully short. But when you get to the punch line where the jury refuses to issue a verdict despite being instructed by the judge to do so because the jury concludes (and very appropriately so) that the appraiser was a liar, you'll know the time you spent reading it was well worth it.
I can still see some virtue in not allowing juries to run amok where only a single opinion is introduced into evidence, especially given a good trial lawyer's ability to confuse the issues so completely in an area where the jury may well lack the expertise to understand the fallacies of a creative attorney's arguments. In the end, though, I probably side with Professor Kanner. The better rule would be to allow the juries to fulfill their role, even if only one opinion is presented at trial.
But for my purposes, I stand by the main point of my initial post, which is that the absolute worst scenario is the one we actually have, where individual trial judges decide which line of cases to follow in any given case, sometimes allowing the jury to reach a conclusion of value -- and sometimes taking the case away from them because there is only one opinion of value.
By the way, if you still haven't done so, go read Professor Kanner's story.
Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues. His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes. His public ...
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