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Violet Rose Holdings, Ltd. v. Spinning Star Energy, LLC.

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

March 29, 2018

VIOLET ROSE HOLDINGS, LTD., Appellant
v.
SPINNING STAR ENERGY, LLC, Appellee and SPINNING STAR ENERGY, LLC, Appellant
v.
TRANSPROJECT, LLC D/B/A TRANSGROUP WORLDWIDE LOGISTICS, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 269th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2014-25698

          Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Brown, and Lloyd.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Russell Lloyd Justice

         Spinning Star Energy, LLC is appealing the amount of damages awarded to it for its conversion claim against TransProject, LLC d/b/a Transgroup Worldwide Logistics. In a single issue, Spinning Star argues that the trial court erred by applying the wrong measure of damages to its conversion claim and refusing to award Spinning Star the diminished value of the converted property in addition to the property itself. We modify the judgment and affirm as modified.

         Background

         Spinning Star hired TransProject to receive, handle, and warehouse twelve wind turbine generators that Spinning Star had purchased from a Chinese manufacturer. When Spinning Star began falling behind in its storage fee payments, TransProject contracted with another company to sell the turbines through an online auction held in December 2013. Violet Rose Holdings, Ltd. purchased the turbines for $1, 140, 000.00 at the auction. Spinning Star did not learn about the auction's conclusion until January 20, 2014.

         Spinning Star sued TransProject for conversion, wrongful foreclosure, and a declaratory judgment regarding the title and lien status of the turbines. Because the amount of Spinning Star's damages award for its conversion claim is the only issue in this case, we will limit our discussion to facts relevant to that claim.

         After a bench trial in August 2016, the trial court found in favor of Spinning Star on its conversion claim and awarded possession of the turbines to Spinning Star as damages for its claim, as Spinning Star had requested.

         In its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the trial court found, among other things, that the turbines had a fair market value of $18, 760, 000.00 at the time of the conversion and that the turbines' fair market value had diminished by $3, 460, 000.00 since that time. Although Spinning Star had also asked the court to award it the turbines' diminution in fair market value as additional damages for its conversion claim, the trial court concluded that Spinning Star could not recover any money damages for the fair market value of the turbines because it had opted to recover possession of the turbines. The trial court also concluded that although Spinning Star could recover consequential loss-of-use damages for the period it was deprived of possession of the turbines, Spinning Star had not established that it had any such damages.[1]

         The final judgment awarded Spinning Star the turbines as damages for its conversion claim against TransProject, but not the diminution-in-value damages that Spinning Star had requested. This appeal followed.[2]

         Damages for a Conversion Claim

         The sole issue in this appeal is whether the trial court applied the proper measure of damages to Spinning Star's conversion claim and correctly refused to award the turbines' $3, 460, 000.00 diminished fair market value as damages against TransProject.

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         Whether the trial court applied the proper measure of damages is a question of law, which we review de novo. Saulsberry v. Ross, 485 S.W.3d 35, 51 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2015, pet. denied); see also R.J. Suarez Enters. Inc. v. ...


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