Appeal from Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DAVID A.
CANEL, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.
MR. JUSTICE DRUCKER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
Rehearing denied February 11, 1970.
Defendants appeal from a judgment of $11,000 after a jury trial on plaintiff's claim that defendants unlawfully detained and withheld plaintiff's goods and chattels.
On appeal defendants contend that the trial court erred in (1) refusing to instruct the jury that the defendants' liability must be predicated upon their gross negligence; (2) permitting plaintiff's expert testimony as to the value of the detained goods; and (3) denying defendants' motion for judgment n.o.v.
In her complaint plaintiff alleged that she was the owner of certain goods and chattels which included various paintings, sculptures, costumes and jewelry; that the defendants became possessed of the costumes, jewelry and sculptures in January 1958 when she was a guest in their house; that the defendants became possessed of the paintings in April 1960 when they were forwarded to them by the plaintiff from Cuba; and that she has made repeated demands for the return of these items but defendants have unlawfully detained and withheld them from her.
Defendants' answer denied that they became possessed of any of the plaintiff's goods on the dates alleged, or at any time whatsoever; denied that the plaintiff was a houseguest but was rather a tenant; and denied that they ever detained or withheld any property belonging to the plaintiff.
Testimony of plaintiff on her own behalf:
She was a citizen and resident of Mexico. She bought and sold paintings, costumes, jewelry and sculptures and operated an art gallery in Mexico for seven years. She is still engaged in the buying and selling of these items. Mr. Teichert operated an art gallery in Chicago when she first met him and she became close friends with the defendants. She was invited to spend Christmas with them in 1957. When she arrived she brought with her costumes, jewelry and sculptures which she used in her work. She was called home to Mexico in early February 1958 because her mother was near death. The costumes, jewelry and sculptures remained in the defendants' home.
Forty-five paintings were sent from Cuba to the defendants by her. Mr. Teichert then sent the following reply letter:
"HANS R. TEICHERT COMPANY AN EYE FOR COLOR. 1311 North Wells Street, Chicago 10, Illinois.
April 29, 1960 "Dear Princess:
"We finally are in possession of your paintings which are stored in our studio. Gloria will show them and if possible sell them as soon as you let us have the prices.
"When they finally called me to pick up the paintings I found them in terrible shape. They were packed tightly in three crates. When the custom officials pulled them out of the crates, all the frames were broken and since they were packed so tightly, it was impossible to repack them, and we had to pick them up in the condition they are in. Items 40 to 43 are missing. They were not packed in the three crates nor are they missing out of these crates because it would have been impossible to pack any more into them. This means there must have been another crate, and since the shipment only called for three crates, I accepted the paintings.
"I would advise that you get in touch with your shipper from Cuba. He might have shipped by mistake only three crates, and one crate might still be in Cuba.
"The frames that are all broken are of course only cheap moldings held together by one nail and they are of no value.
"We would like to hear from you as soon as possible as to how much you have to receive for these individual items so that we can either sell them if possible or return them to you.
Kindest regards, Hanns & Gloria Teichert
"Princess Maya Nicte Ha ...