Premise: You are a turkey farmer just a couple of months away from that most important day for turkey farmers, Thanksgiving. The turkeys are coming along nicely and will be perfect to sell for the holiday. However, an evil train conductor – let’s call him Snidely Whiplash (who’s upgraded to driving the train himself now) — has other plans for those birds. He proceeds to run them over with his railed machine of rolling destruction.

Question: When you sue Mr. Whiplash for “negligently” running over your poor turkeys, will you ask for the value they would have if you sold them then, a paltry sum, or will you be able to collect their expected value on Thanksgiving?

Answer: When this happened in 1938, the Court of Appeals of Texas ruled that the lower courts erred in assessing and awarding the turkeys’ value as what it would be on Thanksgiving. So instead of the $18 you would’ve gained from those plump delicious malegris gallopavos, you’ll only be getting the $6 for the little poults they were as if you had sold them the day they died. According to Texas, them’s the rules. Absurd! Injustice!

But! Fret not my pitiful poultryman protagonist, just like Dudley Do-Right, you’ll get the last laugh against Mr. Whiplash. In attempting to avoid shelling out the 18 clams, ol’ Snidely ended up spending a hefty sum, including 10 bucks on his lawyer! All together his expenses were just over $100, which he was trying to get you to pay for after he gutted your gobblers. The nerve! The court refused, because even though you only got $6, since you collected damages, it was a valid claim and you can’t be subjected to paying Mr. Whiplash’s costs. And that’s as happy an ending as we’ll get. The End.

For anyone interested in the real case, look up Tex. & N. O. R. Co. v. Nolen, 107 S.W.2d 1116 (Tex. Civ. App. 1937).

A Thanksgiving Hypo by Jack Ellis (1L)

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