Tuesday, March 18, 2008, 10:46 PM

COA Holds Punitive Damages May Be Awarded For "Spite Fence"

Today in Austin v. Bald the Court of Appeals (COA) held that punitive damages may be awarded in a "spite fence" case. A spite fence is one that is of no beneficial use to the owner and that is erected and maintained solely for the purpose of annoying a neighbor. In today's case the defendant owned property next to plaintiff's home in Elizabeth City along the Pasquotank River. Defendant erected a 10-foot wooden fence on plaintiff's property line, obstructing her view of the river and restricting sunlight into her yard. Along a different boundary of defendant's property that didn't border plaintiff's property, defendant had a smaller fence. Evidence indicated that defendant was upset with the city council's handling of its application to build condominiums on its property; plaintiff was on the city council. Now plaintiff gets to go back to trial to seek punitive damages.

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