Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jacque v. Steenberg case brief

Jacque v. Steenberg case brief summary

Posture: Circuit court took away the $100,000 while the court of appeals affirmed.

Facts: Steenberg needed to deliver a mobile home and decided that the easiest way is across the Jacques’ lands. The Jacques refused to allow him to deliver the mobile home. Steenberg disregarded what they wanted and dragged the mobile home across their land, against their wishes. The Jacques called the Sheriff and other people and they arrested Steenberg. Jacques pressed civil charges and won $1 in nominal and $100,000 in punitive. The $100,000 was challenged as ridiculous.

Issue:  Can punitive damages be awarded in an intentional trespass case when the Plaintiff is only entitled to nominal damages because there is no actual harm to their property.

Plaintiff’s win. As long as some nominal amount or compensatory amount is there, the jury can award punitive damages.

Holding:  Yes, Punitive damages are indeed appropriate in intentional trespass cases even if there are no actual damages!   The purpose of the punitive damage in this case is for deterrence. Landowners have an interest in protecting their land from trespass.  Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court has held that the right to exclude others from his or her land is one of the most essential […] property rights.

Reasoning: The court says that as long as the landowners are not hurting other people, a landowner has the right to their own property. When the act is an intentional trespass to land, that is enough to award damages because everyone has a right to their property. They also have a right to do with their property as they please. The state has to enforce the right.

Access to customer’s land was by private road covered in snow and with sharp curveIt was much easier to deliver home across Jacques’s fieldBut Jacques refused permissionSteenberg delivered the mobile home across Jacques’s field anywayJacques sued for trespassJury awarded $1 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damagesWisconsin Supreme Court affirmed damages

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