Unusual, Strange & Funny Judicial Decisions and Opinions logoNobody will ever know for sure how, in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, Albert Quade's low-caste bull trespassed onto the neighbor's farm and right into Martha Pietertje's stall. Whether she struggled or not, there was no evidence but Martha was not supposed to be dating anyone as she had already been reserved for some other pedigree bull.

Quade's bull was immediately the number one suspect when, shortly thereafter, it was obvious that the young Martha was pregnant.

Poor Martha, though she probably could not have cared less; mostly, it was her owner who was furious when Martha gave birth not to a purebred, but a next to worthless hybrid calf.

Kopplin filed for damages in trespass against his neighbor Quade. Kopplin won before a Jefferson County Court jury and the damage award was set at $75.

Quade thought the verdict was bull. He appealed.

The appeal came before Justice Barnes of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

On September 14, 1907, the plaintiff was the owner of a thoroughbred Holstein-Friesian heifer, which was born on January 8, 1906, and had been thereafter duly christened Martha Pietertje Pauline. The name is neither euphonious nor musical, but there is not much in a name anyway.

Notwithstanding any handicap she may have had in the way of a cognomen, Martha Pietertje Pauline was a genuine highbrow, having a pedigree as long and at least as well authenticated as that of the ordinary scion of effete European nobility who breaks into this land of democracy and equality, and offers his title to the highest bidder at the matrimonial bargain counter.

The defendant was the owner of a bull about one year old, lowly born and nameless as far as the record discloses. This plebeian, having aspirations beyond his humble station in life, wandered beyond the confines of his own pastures, and sought the society of the adolescent and unsophisticated Martha....

As a result of this somewhat morganatic mesalliance, a calf was born July 5, 1908.

Plaintiff brought this action to recover resulting damages and secured a verdict for $75, upon which judgment was entered, and defendant appeals therefrom.

The plaintiff offered testimony tending to show that he kept and intended to keep Martha for breeding purposes and for the milk which she might produce, and not for sale. It also showed that plaintiff was the owner of a blue blooded bull of the Holstein-Friesian variety, to which he intended to breed Martha some three months later than the date of the unfortunate occurrence related. There was evidence tending to show that a thoroughbred calf would be worth all the way from $22.50 to $150, depending on its sex, markings, and other characteristics.

Its sinister birth disqualified the hybrid calf born from becoming a candidate for pink ribbons at county fairs, and it was sold to a Chicago butcher for $7, and was probably served up as pressed chicken to the epicures in some Chicago boarding house.

Numerous witnesses testified that a thoroughbred calf had a much greater value than a grade calf, and this evidence is not contradicted in any way. True, the witnesses vary widely as to the amount of such difference in value, but the matter of arriving at an exact amount of compensation in most tort actions is involved in uncertainty and difficulty, and it was for the jury to say on all the testimony what sum would reasonably compensate the plaintiff. This element of damages was direct and proximate and the objection to it on the ground of remoteness is not well taken.

The true measure of damages was the difference between the value of the heifer to the plaintiff before and after the trespass, in view of the uses which the plaintiff intended to make of the heifer. Such a rule furnishes compensation, and this is what the law aims at. There was no direct question asked of any witness as to what such difference would be, but the line of examination pursued elicited at least some if not all of the items or elements of damages that a witness would consider in answering such a question if it were asked. One of those elements would be the difference between the value of the calf dropped and the value of a calf from the heifer if bred to a registered Holstein-Friesian bull.

Judgment affirmed.

REFERENCES

  • Kopplin v Quade, [1911] USFJDO 1; also at 130 N.W. 511