Friday, November 11, 2011

Jacque v. Steenberg Homes, Inc. case brief

Jacque v. Steenberg Homes, Inc.
(563 N.W. 2d 154)

FACTS
  • Steenberg had a home to deliver to Jacque's neighbor.  The easiest route was across Jacque's land.  
  • Jacque protested, Steenberg offered money to allow the delivery, but Jacque said no.
  • The other road was blocked due to safety reasons. 
  • Steenberg used a bobcat to deliver the home across Jacque's land.
  • A sheriff issued a $30 citation to Steenberg for trespassing.
  • The $30 citation was the least expensive option for Steenberg.
ISSUES
-Is an award of nominal damages for intentional trespass to land enough to support a punitive damage award.
-If so, should the law apply to Steenberg or should it only be applied prospectively?
-If it applied to Steenberg, would a $100,000 punitive damage award by the jury be excessive?
HOLDING
-Yes, when nominal damages are awarded for intentional trespass to land, punitive damages may be awarded at the jury's descretion. 
-Yes, the law should be applied to Steenberg, and the $100,000 damage award was not excessive.
RULES
-Tuker v. Marcus stated that there was a compensatory damage requirement: if the individual cannot show actual harm, he/she has only a nominal interest.  Society has little to no interest in having the unlawful but otherwise harmless conduct deterred. 
-Punitive damage would be inappropriate.
-A U.S. Supreme Court ruling gives private landowners the right to exclude others.  This is one of the most essential rights characterized as property.
-Dolan v. City of Tigard stated that the court recognized every persons constitutional right to exclusive enjoyment of property for any purpose which does not invade the rights of others.
REASONING
-Although only nominal damages were awarded, Steenberg's intentional trespass did cause harm. 
-Society has an interest in preserving the integrity of the legal system.

Class: Property
Subject: Trespass, Punitive Damages, Intentional Trespass (to land)

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