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Tort; damage to realty. Before Judge Hicks. Floyd Superior Court. July 2, 1956.
1. It was not necessary for the plaintiff, seeking damages to his leasehold interest by reason of a taking of private property for public purposes, to attach to the petition a copy of the lease agreement.
2. The measure of damages for loss of use of leased property is the diminution in the market value of the leasehold during the remainder of the unexpired term of the lease, less any rents to be paid by the lessee.
3. In such a case the plaintiff, in order to recover from a county for such taking, must show that it was done for a public purpose of the county. Nothing appearing to the contrary, the allegation that the county took the property as a part of "a right-of-way for a road and street" within the municipality and while acting "in the conduct of its business" sufficiently alleges the right of the county to condemn the land in question, together with such interest by the plaintiff in the property as will sustain an action.
J. F. McGhee filed an action against Floyd County in the superior court of that county, alleging in substance that Floyd County, in the conduct of its business, appropriated and took as a part of a right-of-way for a road and street through the City of Rome, being 9th Avenue, the house where the plaintiff was doing business as a launderette; that petitioner had a lease contract with the owner, F. L. Baker, Jr., and said lease had two years and three months to run, that the defendant has taken the same without first reimbursing or paying the petitioner therefor, and the effect of such taking was to destroy the petitioner's business and render valueless the articles set forth. The measure of damages was alleged to be the value of certain concrete work, plumbing and flooring placed in the building, wiring, carpentering and materials used in preparing the place for business, and cost of moving equipment. Demurrers challenged the petition on the grounds that no cause of action was set forth, no copy of the lease attached, no proper measure of damages alleged, and no duty on the part of the defendant to reimburse the plaintiff for the items referred to was shown. The trial court sustained all the demurrers and dismissed the petition, to which judgment exception is taken.
1. In an action by the owner of a leasehold interest in lands seeking recompense for the taking of private property for public purposes, it is not necessary for the plaintiff to attach to his petition a copy of the lease agreement. Housing Authority v. Savannah Iron & Wire Works, 90 Ga. App. 150 (2a), 161 (82 S. E. 2d 244). The trial court erroneously sustained ground 2 of the demurrer.
2. The correct measure of damages for the loss of use of leased property is the diminution in the market value of the leasehold during the remainder of the unexpired term of the lease, less any rents to be paid by the lessee. Pause v. City of Atlanta, 98 Ga. 92 (26 S. E. 489, 58 Am. St. R. 290); Minsk v. Fulton County, 83 Ga. App. 520 (64 S. E. 2d 336). Accordingly, paragraph 4 of the petition was subject to ground 3 of the demurrer as it alleged a wrong measure of damages, and the court did not err in sustaining this ground. But the fact that the wrong measure of damages is alleged does not make the petition subject to general demurrer. Jones v. Cedartown Supply Co., 65 Ga. App. 80 (15 S. E. 2d 268). And the petition should not be dismissed on this ground without giving the plaintiff leave to amend by setting up a correct measure of damages.
3. The remaining grounds of demurrer will be considered together. Construing this petition against the pleader, and recognizing its many inadequacies, it nevertheless alleges facts showing that the plaintiff seeks to recover remuneration compensating for the taking of property by the county, an arm of the government, for public purposes, the plaintiff's interest in the property being a leasehold interest which would entitle him to compensation for such taking under Art. I, Sec. III, Par. I of the Constitution of this State (Code, Ann., 2-301). The defendant in error contends that since the taking by the county must be for a public purpose of the county (see Kitchens v. Jefferson County, 85 Ga. App. 902 (3), 70 S. E. 2d 527) and since the petition shows on its face that the street to be constructed or improved was located within the City of Rome, the petition shows that the taking was for a municipal and not a county purpose. The land taken in the Kitchens case was affirmatively shown to be a cemetery entrance and roadway which formed no part of the county or State highway system within the defendant municipality. Counties may take property within the incorporated limits of a city for county purposes in cooperation with the city under Code Chapter 23-6, and may take such property for a State-aid road or highway whether the Code procedure set forth in Code Chapter 95-2 is followed or not. Lee County v. Mayor &c. of Smithville, 154 Ga. 550 (115 S. E. 107). The petition alleges that Floyd County took the area in question "in the conduct of its business," and, no facts appearing to show that this is untrue, it must be taken as alleged that the county took the land for county purposes. County of Bibb v. Reese, 115 Ga. 346, 347 (41 S. E. 636) deals with the evidence on the trial of the case rather than the allegations of the petition, and states that "while the Constitution declares that private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation, the taking or damaging referred to must be by some authority empowered by law to do those acts; and before a recovery can be had against a county for taking or damaging private property, it must be shown that the proper authorities of the county were responsible for the taking or damaging, or that they ratified it after the property was so taken or damaged." This rule of law does not require that the constitutional provision or statute under which the county is alleged to be liable be specifically referred to, but it requires that the petition must allege facts which, if proved, entitle the plaintiff to recover, and one of the facts it is necessary to prove is that the alleged change was made under the authority of officers of the county who were empowered by law to do the work complained of in the petition. If this is shown, then the county could not defend on the ground that its taking, in the conduct of its business, was for an unlawful purpose. Accordingly, a cause of action is set out, although imperfectly, and the trial court erred in sustaining the general demurrer, the effect of which was to dismiss the petition.
830); Broyles v. Haas, 48 Ga. App. 321 (6) (172 S. E. 742); Moseley v. Equitable Life Assurance Society, 49 Ga. App. 424 (3) (176 S. E. 87)." Accordingly the status of the petition at this time is that it is still pending in the trial court, and the plaintiff still has opportunity to amend in order to avoid an eventual dismissal if he desires to do so.
Judgment affirmed in part and reversed in part. Gardner, P. J., and Carlisle, J., concur.
Matthews, Maddox, Walton & Smith, John W. Maddox, contra.
Maddox & Maddox, for plaintiff in error.
Saturday May 23 01:53 EDT

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