Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Davis v. Georgia-Pacific Corp. case brief

Davis v. Georgia-Pacific Corp. case brief summary
445 P.2d 481 (1968)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant paper plant sought review of the judgment entered by the Circuit Court, Lincoln County, (Oregon) on a jury verdict in favor of plaintiffs, homeowner and spouse, on their action for compensatory and punitive damages for trespass arising from the emanation from the paper plant of offensive odors, fumes, gases, smoke, and particulates.

CASE FACTS
The homeowner and the spouse sued the paper plant for permanent injury to the freehold for trespass arising from the emanation from the plant of offensive particulates. The trial court awarded judgment for compensatory and punitive damages on a jury verdict in favor of the landowner and the spouse.

DISCUSSION

  • On appeal, the court reversed the judgment as to punitive damages, but affirmed the judgment for compensatory damages. 
  • First, the court agreed that the deposit of airborne particulates constituted a trespass even though the particulates were so small as to be invisible. 
  • Next, the court held that the trial court erred in failing to remove the spouse as a party because he had no interest in the freehold; however, that was not reversible error. 
  • However, the court found prejudicial error relevant to punitive damages. 
  • The trial court erred in not admitting evidence relating to weighing the social value and utility of the paper plant's conduct of its business against the seriousness of the harm suffered by the landowner. 
  • Although such evidence was not relevant to the claim of compensatory damages, it was admissible for the limited purpose of the jury's consideration of punitive damages.

CONCLUSION
The court set aside the trial court's judgment for punitive damages on a jury verdict in favor of the landowner and the spouse and against the paper plant, but affirmed the judgment for compensatory damages, unless the landowner filed a motion for another trial, in which instance the judgment of the trial court would be reversed in its entirety and a new trial granted.

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