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Minihan v. Stiglich

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 10-09-2013
Case #: A144998
Nakamoto, J. for the Court; Schuman, P.J.; and Wollheim, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A144998.pdf

Property Law: An intentional trespass action may properly result in compensatory and punitive damages for both loss of use and emotional distress even if emotional distress is not specifically alleged.

Stiglich appealed the trial court's award of compensatory and punitive damages for intentional trespass. Minihan appealed the trial court's denial of attorney fees. Minihan and Stiglich, neighbors along the Willamette River, disputed ownership of a jointly-owned tract of land that provided several homes a path to the river. Stiglich claimed his boundary extended into the path. A partial owner of the path, Minihan, claimed Stiglich intentionally trespassed on the path by constructing fences, dog runs, verbally harassing him and his guests, and other issues. Multiple surveys of the land were conducted, resulting in the same, constant finding that Stiglich was not the owner of any portion of the path. Stiglich raised three assignments of error, arguing: (1) award of compensatory damages was improper because emotional distress was not alleged by Minihan, (2) if compensatory damages were improper then punitive damages were also, and (3) the trial court erred by finding issue preclusion and summary judgment on Minihan's quiet title claim was therefore improper. Minihan argued that the trial court improperly denied attorney fees because Stiglich had no objectively reasonable basis for asserting a defense to the claim. The Court of Appeals held: (1) intentional trespass claims can include damages for both loss of use and emotional distress whether or not emotional distress is pled, (2) punitive damages, therefore, may also stand, and (3) although not all owners of the path were properly joined in the initial trial, this does not mean the issue can be relitigated. Finally, regarding Minihan’s attorney fees, since Stiglish presented evidence of the boundaries of his lot, Stiglish had a reasonable basis for defending against Minian’s claims. Affirmed.