United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division
FRANCES E. NEIDHARDT, Plaintiff,
BILLY WAYNE SHOUSE, et al., Defendants.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action came before the Court for a bench trial on April 18
and 19, 2017, presenting the issue of the proper measure of
damages for the negligent cutting of another's trees and
conversion. Based on the entire record, the Court finds by a
preponderance of the evidence that Frances E. Neidhardt shall
recover from Sharon Kay Thomas a/k/a Sharon Knowles, Jack
Knowles, and Billy Wayne Shouse a total award of $3, 015.60.
2015, the Knowles hired Shouse to cut timber and clear land.
(Doc. No. 58 at ¶ 4.) Shouse mistakenly cut and fell
thirteen (13) large trees from approximately one (1) acre of
land that belonged to Neidhardt. (Id. at ¶ 5.)
Neither Shouse nor the Knowles had Neidhardt's permission
to enter upon or to cut trees on Neidhardt's property. By
doing so, they committed the torts of trespass and
conversion. See Burlison v. United States, No.
2:07-cv-02151-JPM-cgc, 2011 WL 1002808, at *8 (W.D. Tenn.
Mar. 15, 2011) (quoting Baker v. Moreland, No.
89-62-II, 1989 WL 89758, at *4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 9, 1989))
(“Under Tennessee law, ‘[e]very unauthorized
entry upon another's realty is a trespass, regardless of
the degree of force used or the amount of
damage.'”); Shipwash v. United Airlines,
Inc., 28 F.Supp.3d 740, 753 (E.D. Tenn. 2014) (quoting
Ralston v. Hobbs, 306 S.W.3d 213, 221 (Tenn. Ct.
App. 2009)) (“Under Tennessee law, ‘[c]onversion
is the appropriation of another's property to one's
own use and benefit, by the exercise of dominion over the
property, in defiance of the owner's right to the
is entitled to damages. She seeks damages for the value of
the 13 trees that Shouse cut down, and damages for trespass.
Awarding damages for the value of the trees and for trespass
is appropriate in Tennessee. Ellis v. Vic Davis Const.,
Inc., No. 03S01-9201-CV-00011, 1992 WL 183536, at *2
(Tenn. Aug. 3, 1992).
Code Annotated § 43-28-312 governs liability and damages
for cutting timber from the property of another and provides:
(a) (1) Civil liability for the negligent cutting of timber
from the property of another is in an amount double that of
the current market value of the timber.
(2) If the timber is negligently cut from the property of
another because the landowner for whom the timber is being
cut has marked or designated the boundary of the
landowner's property incorrectly, then the landowner is
jointly liable for the double damages.
(b) Civil liability for knowingly and intentionally cutting
timber from the property of another is in an amount treble
that of the current market value of the timber.
(c) Nothing in this section precludes an owner of property on
which timber has been cut by another from recovering damages
for loss of value other than commercial timber value, if any,
of the timber negligently or intentionally cut.
(d) “Current market value, ” as used in this
section, applies to the property in question that is standing
timber; therefore, the current market value is that of the
timber before being cut.
Neidhardt voluntarily dismissed her claim for intentional
cutting of timber. (Doc. No. 57.) The Court finds that Sharon
Knowles instructed Shouse to clear Neidhardt's land
because she thought the land belonged to her. Thus, the Court
concludes that the cutting of Neidhardt's timber was
Trunk Formula Method
relies on the trunk formula method to determine the value of
the trees. Certified arborist Dr. Douglas Airhart testified
that the trunk formula method is used to value trees that are
too large to be replaced by equal-sized nursery trees. Dr.
Airhart specifically opined that the value of Neidhardt's
real estate was not relevant to his valuation of the trees
because her property was not for sale. Similarly, Dr. Airhart
opined that it would be inappropriate to award damages based
on the market value of the trees because Neidhardt did not
want the trees to be harvested for any reason.
Airhart applied the trunk formula method as set forth in the
Guide for Plant Appraisal, 9th Edition from the Council of
Tree and Landscape Appraisers (International Society of
Arboriculture, 2000) (the “Guide”). He visited
Neidhardt's property to verify the location of the cut
trees. He relied on a report from a consulting forester that