Since we find no ambiguity, we must conclude from the plain language of the contract that defendant is liable for the damages suffered by plaintiff as a result of the destruction of its trailer while in defendant's possession; namely, the fair market value of plaintiff's trailer at the time of its total destruction. This measure of damages is adopted because of the total destruction of the trailer. In such event we feel it is implicit in the contract that damages should be so limited, since the cost of restoring the trailer 'to the condition in which it was received' would be greater than the value of the trailer.
Plaintiff claims additional sums for loss of use and costs of investigation, but we feel that such claims cannot be sustained. The contract itself imposes the limit of damages recoverable by plaintiff to the cost of repairs to the damaged trailer. Since in the instant case the trailer was totally destroyed, it follows that defendant's liability is limited to the fair market value of the trailer, and there is no liability for loss of use. The costs of investigation claimed by plaintiff as an item of damages are not recoverable in this action. Those costs were incurred by plaintiff's insurer, a stranger to this action. Although plaintiff's insurer may be subrogated to plaintiff's rights against defendant, those rights could be no greater than plaintiff's, and plaintiff's right is limited to the repair costs mentioned above. Aside from this consideration, however, in the state of the record before us, since the insurer is neither a party to this action nor to the contract under consideration, its expenses cannot be considered in computing plaintiff's damages.
As to the value of the trailer destroyed, the evidence is widely conflicting. The trailer was purchased by plaintiff at a cost of $ 7,792.83
on April 6, 1956 (Testimony, pp. 8-9, plaintiff's Exhibits 3, 4 and 5). Slightly more than fifteen months later, on July 10, 1957, the trailer was destroyed by fire, at a time when it was concededly in good condition. Plaintiff's insurance carrier paid Faltin $ 6,800; expect Santomo sets the fair market value at $ 3,500; expert McKelvey sets the fair market value at $ 5,743.45;
and, of course, the parties themselves placed widely divergent values on the loss. Of these various figures, the one submitted by McKelvey seems to be the most reasonable since it takes into consideration the normal depreciation rate of trailers and his personal experience during 1957 with appraisal of Strick trailers. The amount should be reduced, however, to reflect the absence of the spare wheel, leaving a net figure of $ 5,723.05.
Plaintiff, in its complaint, also demands interest from July 10, 1957, the date of the loss. As stated above, the contract required defendant, upon the occurrence of the loss, to restore the trailer by repair to the condition in which it was received or to pay the cost thereof. These performances are alternative and any obligation existing under general contract law to pay interest would ordinarily not arise immediately upon the happening of the event. Defendant would be liable at once to repair the damage and only on its failure to do so would it be liable to pay the costs of such repair. Defendant might decide, after reasonable effort or investigation, that repairs were not feasible, or that repairs by plaintiff would be more practical under the particular circumstances, in either or which events defendant would be justified in adopting its second alternative performance and no liability for interest would arise until the decision was reached or the repairs made. In the instant case, however, the trailer was largely reduced to melted aluminum and was obviously beyond repair. Defendant's duty to pay arose at that time and plaintiff was entitled to payment under the terms of the contract as of the date of the loss.
Having determined the date when defendant's performance became delinquent, there remains only a determination of plaintiff's right to interest under general contract principles. We find that the case at bar fits squarely into the language of § 337(a), Restatement of the Law of Contracts, together with comments d. and g. thereunder.
The value of defendant's performance having been proved by the evidence, plaintiff is entitled to interest from the date the right accrued.
Conclusions of Law
1. The court has jurisdiction of the parties and subject matter.
2. Defendant is liable to plaintiff under the terms of a 'Trailer Interchange Agreement' for the damage to plaintiff's trailer while in defendant's hands.
3. Plaintiff is entitled to recover the sum of $ 5,723.05 with interest from July 10, 1957 and costs.