A Maryland Supreme Court opinion, Schreiber v. Pacific Coast Fire Insurance Company,1 is where we look for a discussion on the calculation of actual cash value in Maryland. Here, a dwelling house was partially damaged by a fire. The parties allowed their dispute on valuation to be submitted to arbitration. The appraisers had disagreed on the cash value of the property and had called in an umpire. The two appraisers and umpire then set down their own figures, added them, divided by three and then agreed upon that figure as the combined judgment of the three. The Court held that the appraisal was not invalid, in absence of evidence they had agreed to be bound by result of their computations.
The court addressed the calculation of actual cash value and explained that Maryland follows the Best Evidence Rule:2
Plaintiffs contend that the award should be set aside for error of law in that the appraisers and the umpire erroneously held ‘actual cash value’ to be equivalent to cost of reproduction less depreciation. Some courts have held that ‘actual cash value’ is equivalent to cost of reproduction less depreciation, but we think the best considered cases hold that cost of reproduction is not the measure of ‘actual cash value’, but is very important evidence of value. McAnarney v. Newark Fire Insurance Company, 247 N.Y. 176, 159 N.E. 902, 56 A.L.R. 1149; Kingsley v. Spofford, 298 Mass. 469, 476, 11 N.E.2d 487; Bonbright on Valuation of Property, pp. 369-370, 384-394; 6 Appleman on Insurance Law and Practice, § 3823. If we were to take over the appraisers’ functions we might doubt whether cost of reproduction, less depreciation, is a reliable guide to the value of this kind of property-an old dwelling house property in the 1400 block on Eutaw Place. On the other hand, some special effort seems to have been made to allow for obsolescence of high ceilings and elaborate stairways. Again, if the question were properly before us, it is not clear that the appraisers and umpire committed error of law in determining ‘actual cash value’. Cummins’ testimony indicates that he, and apparently the other appraiser and the umpire, considered cost of reproduction, less depreciation, equivalent to ‘actual cash value’. Nevertheless he insists that he considered all other evidence of value, though no other evidence of value was reflected in the result. In construing tax statutes we have held that factors required to be considered in making a valuation may be sufficiently ‘considered’ though they do not enter into the result in a particular case. State Tax Commission v. Chesapeake & Potomac Tel. Co., Md., 66 A.2d 477, 481; Seaboard Comm. Corporation v. State Tax Commission, 181 Md. 234, 243-244, 29 A.2d 294.
While doing internet searches about Maryland, I was reminded that America’s national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key, a Maryland lawyer. It is believed Key wrote the anthem on September 14, 1814, while watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.
1 Schreiber v. Pacific Coast Fire Ins. Co., 75 A.2d 108 (Md. 1950).
2 Id. at 111.