Friday, November 11, 2011

Jacque v. Steenberg Homes, Inc. case brief

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

  • 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.
-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?
-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.
-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.
-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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