CHUUK STATE SUPREME COURT
Cite as Rosokow v. Chuuk,
7 Intrm. 507 (Chuuk S. Ct. Tr. App. 1996)
CIVIL APPEAL. NO. 11-94
Argued: May 21, 1996
Decided: June 18, 1996
Hon. Wanis Simina, Associate Justice, Chuuk State Supreme Court
Hon. Lyndon L. Cornelius, Temporary Justice, Chuuk State Supreme Court*
Hon. Midasy O. Aisek, Temporary Justice, Chuuk State Supreme Court**
*Chief Justice, Kosrae State Court, Lelu, Kosrae
**Attorney, Chuuk State Bar, Weno, Chuuk
For the Appellant: Tony Rosokow
P.O. Box 189
Weno, Chuuk FM 96942
For the Appellee: Kachuo Eko
Assistant Attorney General
Office of the Chuuk Attorney General
P.O. Box 189
Weno, Chuuk FM 96942
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Appeal and Certiorari ) Standard of Review
The Chuuk State Supreme Court appellate division will affirm a trial court's findings of fact unless the findings are clearly erroneous. Rosokow v. Chuuk, 7 FSM Intrm. 507, 509 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 1996).
Appeal and Certiorari ) Decisions Reviewable
On appeal, a party will be limited ordinarily, to the specific objections to evidence made at trial and the appellate court will consider only such grounds of objection as are specified. Rosokow v.
Chuuk, 7 FSM Intrm. 507, 509 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 1996).
Appeal and Certiorari ) Decisions Reviewable
A party cannot raise an issue upon appeal that he did not raise at the trial level, simply because the result of not raising the issue dissatisfies him. Rosokow v. Chuuk, 7 FSM Intrm. 507, 509 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 1996).
Civil Procedure; Judgments
In the Chuuk State Supreme Court a trial judge has the discretion to order on his own motion a hearing for the plaintiff to prove to the court by the applicable legal standard the amount of damages or other relief sought to be awarded by an offer of judgment. Rosokow v. Chuuk, 7 FSM Intrm. 507, 509-10 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 1996).
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Tony Rosokow appeals the judgment of the trial division awarding him $200 for a crack in the floor of his house caused by the installation of a sewer line on his property by Chuuk State and $500 for uncompensated work he performed when the State failed to clear a portion of his property for a men's house when installing the sewer line. His appeal states that the trial court made several erroneous factual assumptions leading to the $700 award rather than a higher award of $80,000 or more that Mr. Rosokow originally claimed. His appeal also states that the trial division erred in not recognizing the offer of judgment entered into by the Attorney General for $80,000.
Tony Rosokow filed an action in the Chuuk State Supreme Court trial division claiming that Chuuk State had trespassed on his land by clearing it for and laying a sewer line on the land without his permission. Prior to trial the Attorney General's office and Mr. Rosokow entered into an Offer of Judgment for $80,000, which the trial court refused to approve without a hearing. Neither party objected to the court's rejection of the Offer of Judgment or to setting the matter on for hearing.
At trial Mr. Rosokow presented only himself and a person who worked for Chuuk State Land Management, Mr. Saulden Manas, to testify as witnesses. Neither of these witnesses presented any testimony demonstrating monetary loss to Mr. Rosokow caused by Chuuk State. Nevertheless, the trial court found that Mr. Rosokow should be compensated for a small crack to his house floor in the amount of $200 and for work he performed in clearing his land when the State failed to clear the land as it had agreed to do. The trial court found that the crack was caused by the State's activities in installing the sewer line. It also found that Mr. Rosokow had agreed to an easement in exchange for the State clearing his land, which it never did. Then he had to clear the land himself, and should be compensated for $500 work in clearing the land.
Mr. Rosokow claims that the trial court made five erroneous factual assumptions, and that the trial court also erred in not accepting the Offer of Judgment for $80,000. The factual findings of the trial court will not be disturbed unless the decision of the trial court is clearly erroneous. Also, this Court will not consider errors to which no objection was made at the trial level.
Clearly Erroneous Standard
In Emilios v. Setile, 6 FSM Intrm. 558, 1 CSR 17 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 1994) and in Cheni v. Ngusun, 6 FSM Intrm. 544, 1 CSR 35 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 1994) this Court held that when it reviews a trial court's findings of fact it will affirm the trial court's findings unless the findings are clearly erroneous. In the present case the trial court based its findings and decision upon the testimony of the two witnesses that Mr. Rosokow presented and the one picture he entered as evidence.
Neither through this testimony, nor through the picture entered into evidence did Mr. Rosokow present any evidence of the amount of monetary loss he suffered. He presented no expert to show what caused the crack in the floor. Nor did he present any evidence showing how much his work in clearing the land was worth. The trial transcript and record are devoid of any evidence showing monetary loss.
Nevertheless, the trial court awarded Mr. Rosokow $700 in damages. We will not disturb this judgment unless it is clearly erroneous. To determine this we first presume that the trial court's findings are correct. Emilios, 6 FSM Intrm. at 560, 1 CSR at 19. We therefore presume that the $700 damage award is correct unless Mr. Rosokow clearly demonstrates otherwise.
In this case, the record does not demonstrate any error, as Mr. Rosokow presented no evidence at trial justifying any monetary damages. It is only because of the strong presumption that the trial court's findings are correct that we affirm its decision, rather than find no basis for any monetary award.
Failure to Raise Objection to the Hearing at Trial Level
Mr. Rosokow did not object when the trial court decided to set this matter on for hearing, rather than accept the Offer of Judgment for $80,000. Only after the judge decided that he had not demonstrated more than $700 in monetary loss did he raise this issue upon appeal.
On appeal, the party will be limited ordinarily, to the specific objections to evidence made at trial and the appellate court will consider only such grounds of objection as are specified. In other words an appellant is confined to the specific objections made by him and can have the benefit of no others.
75 Am. Jur. 2d Trial § 429, at 615 (1995).
There may be some exceptions to this rule in rare circumstances. See generally Mitchell J. Waldman, Annotation, When Will Federal Court of Appeals Review Issue Raised by Party for First Time on Appeal Where Legal Developments after Trial Affect Issue, 76 A.L.R. Fed. 522 (1986). Nevertheless, a party cannot raise an issue upon appeal that he did not raise at the trial level, simply because the result of not raising the issue dissatisfies him. Roberts v. Reilly, 116 U.S. 80, 6 S. Ct. 291, 29 L. Ed. 544 (1885).
Although this issue has been disposed of because Mr. Rosokow did not raise it at the trial level, Civil Rule 68(b) of the Chuuk State Supreme Court Rules of Civil Procedure clearly allows a judge to order a hearing for the plaintiff to prove damages. This Rule provides:
If an offer, acceptance, filing and service are made in compliance with Section 1 of this rule, the court may, on its own motion, order that a hearing be held if in the discretion of the court, the interests of justice require that the plaintiff prove to the court by the
applicable legal standard the amount of damages or other relief sought to be awarded by the offer of judgment. The court shall then issue judgment in accordance with its findings from this said hearing.
Chk. Civ. R. 68(b).
The Chief Justice of the Chuuk State Supreme Court promulgated this rule pursuant to his constitutional authority under Article VII, section 13 of the Chuuk State Constitution which says: "The Chief Justice shall promulgate rules of evidence, and rules governing the administration of all state courts, the regulation of the judicial profession, and practice and procedure in civil and criminal matters. Judicial Rules may be amended by statute." Chk. Const. art. VII, § 13.
Pursuant to his rule making authority, the Chief Justice promulgated Civil Rule 68 to provide for a hearing in the court's discretion when an offer of judgment has been accepted. This Rule became effective on August 20, 1993. Mr. Rosokow did not file his acceptance of the offer of judgment until August 23, 1993. He clearly fell under this rule and was subject to its provisions. So even if Mr. Rosokow had raised this issue at the trial level, he would not have succeeded in his appeal on this issue.