Breached Pipeline Easement Case Leads To Computation of Land Damages.

The plaintiff, a landowner, granted the defendant, a pipeline company, an easement across the plaintiffs property to lay a pipeline.  The easement agreement required that installation was to occur via underground boring so as to preserve the plaintiff's trees.  The defendant hired a construction company to build and lay the pipeline but did not tell the company of the boring requirement.  As a result, the company cut many trees and bulldozed the ground in the easement area.  The plaintiff sued for breach of contract and trespass and the jury held the defendant liable on both claims.  As for trespass, the jury awarded $288,000 to the plaintiff for the intrinsic value of the destroyed trees.  On the breach of contract claim, the plaintiff was awarded $300,000 as restoration damages (the estimated cost to restore the property to the condition that the property would have been in but for the breach).  On appeal, the defendant claimed that restorative damages were inappropriate due to the permanent nature of the damage and, as a result, the proper measure of damages was diminution in the land's value.  The appellate court noted that the parties had agreed that the damages were permanent and that the damages would also be classified as permanent because the restoration costs exceeded the diminution in the property's fair market value by a disproportionate amount.  As such, the contract damages were $3,000 rather than $300,000.  However, the court upheld the damage award of $288,000 for the intrinsic value of the destroyed trees (aesthetic and utilitarian value).  Wheeler v. Enbridge Pipeline (East Texas), L.P., No. 13-0234, 2014 Tex. LEXIS 767 (Tex. Sup. Ct. Aug. 29, 2014).     

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