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Evenson v. Lilley
Kansas Supreme Court
282 P.3d 610 (2012)
Mark and Janice Evenson (plaintiffs) owned 160 acres of rural land. Tim Lilley (defendant) leased adjacent pastureland. Lilley started a controlled burn, but lost control. The fire spread to the Evensons’ property and destroyed three outbuildings and over 200 fruit and pine trees. The Evensons sued, claiming damages over $75,000. Lilley agreed he was responsible but disputed the damages. The Evensons did not regularly harvest the fruit trees, but submitted a letter from a local nursery estimating mature replacement trees would cost about $308,000 with irrigation. Mark Evenson testified the family used the property for picnicking and hunting and might someday build a house, but did not say the trees were important to those activities or would increase the house’s value. Lilley submitted an appraisal that said the fire reduced the property value only $4,687. With $3,000 for removing fire debris, the appraiser assessed total damages at $7,687. The trial court awarded the Evensons $7,687, and the appellate court affirmed, reasoning that the correct measure for permanent damage to land is diminution in market value. The Evensons appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Rosen, J.)
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