Legal Memorandum: Damages for Conversion and Destruction of Livestock

Issue: In Minnesota, what is the measure of damages for the conversion and destruction of livestock?

Area of Law: Agricultural Business
Keywords: Measure of damages; Conversion and destruction of livestock
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 141 Minn. 236; 7 Minn. 421; 186 N.W. 991; 202 N.W. 338; 13 Minn. 335; 553 N.W.2d 424; 289 Minn. 412; 195 N.W. 765; 354 N.W.2d 549; 25 Minn. 196; 170 N.W. 195; 184 N.W.2d 780
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 06/01/2000

When livestock has been wrongfully taken, the basic measure of damages is the value or the market value of the animals at the time of the taking.  4 Am. Jur. 2d Animals § 13 (1995); O.H. Webster, Annotation, Measure and Elements of Damages, in Action Other than One Against a Carrier, for Conversion, Injury, Loss, or Destruction of Livestock, 79 A.L.R.2d 677, § 3 (1961).  When the animals have been taken and destroyed, damages are measured by the market value, if there is one, immediately before the wrongful taking.  O.H. Webster, supra, at § 3 (citing, inter alia, Graves v. Morse, 13 Minn. 335, Gil. 307 (1868)).

In some cases, courts have deducted the value of the carcass from the market value of the animals if they were alive.  O.H. Webster, supra, at § 4.  The reasoning is that if the animals are fit for human consumption, or have valuable hides or fur, they are salvageable, such that “there is a duty imposed upon the owner of livestock to reduce the damages by utilizing the carcass.”  Id. § 4, at 694 n.12.  “Hence it has generally been held that from the basic measure of damages allowed for the loss or destruction of livestock, a deduction should be made for the value of the carcass.”  Id. § 4, at 694.  The salvage value must be proven; if it is not, no deduction may be made.  Id. § 4, at 696. 

However, it appears that the salvage deduction applies when the rightful owner salvages meat […]

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