Brief Fact Summary. In order to enhance the Eckman’s view of the ocean they hired a landscaping company to take down trees on their neighbor’s yard without permission.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Restoration damages and treble damages are an appropriate remedy and are not excessive for a claim of trespass and destruction of property.
Punitive damages may be awarded for conduct that is outrageous, because of the defendant's evil motive or his reckless indifference to the rights of others.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether restoration damages are appropriate when typically actual damages or market value depreciation damages are used and whether treble damages are excessive.
Held. A Judge has broad discretion to determine the appropriate damages applicable to a trespass action. The applicable statute only states that treble damages are allowed, it does not state what kind of damages would be tripled. It was argued that typically actual damages or market depreciation damages is what will be typically given and more appropriate here. However in this case, to award only those types of damages may encourage others to trespass. Sometimes when a party cuts down trees it may even increase the property value; however, there is a harm that the home owner suffers. A home owners right to exclude others from his or her property is an important property right and appropriate damages will be awarded for trespass offenses. The Eckmans argue that Three Trees Ltd is an independent contractor and that they shouldn’t be responsible for their actions and the court disagreed because it was clear from their description of the job that they intended that Three Trees Ltd cut down those trees.
Discussion. When appropriate, a Judge may award restoration damages to make a property owner whole. Typically in trespass actions the actual damages do not always amount to sufficient price to deter others from trespassing. Restoration damage is not excessive.