- Malicious Tree Planting Almost Costs $290,000
- July 17, 2013
- Law Firm: Gordon Feinblatt LLC - Baltimore Office
Long v. Mastromarco, No. 2552, Sept. Term 2009 (Md. Court of Special Appeals, Jan. 5, 2012), cert. denied, 426 Md. 429 (May 11, 2012), discussed a fight between neighbors having lots on the Magothy River that resulted in a jury verdict of $290,000 based on claims of nuisance and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. This verdict included $80,000 for punitive damages. Two neighbors, who obviously do not get along, brought their fight to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. It appears that Mr. Long planted four pine trees and a holly bush near the boundary with the Mastromarcos. This was alleged to be done with malice, and the trees and bush were claimed to interfere with the Mastromarcos’ view of the Magothy River. They claimed to have both an express and implied easement of light and air, alleged that the trees constituted a nuisance, and that they also interfered with prospective economic advantage. The trial court found that there was no express or implied easement of light and air, but allowed the claims of nuisance and tortious interference to go to the jury.
The jury was obviously unimpressed with the defense in the case because it found necessarily that the trees were planted with malice and awarded large damages, including punitive damages. The trial judge found that there was no implied easement of light and air, and the judge therefore granted a judgment N.O.V. on this claim. However, he let the matter go to the jury on the claims of nuisance. The Court of Special Appeals, in an opinion written by Judge Zarnoch, found that because the Mastromarcos had no easements, they had no rights in land that would support a claim for nuisance. Without a property right, appellees had no cognizable claim for nuisance. The court adverted to the fact that some states have a law on “spite fences,” but Maryland has no such statute.
On the claim of tortious interference, the court found that while the Longs were certainly not good neighbors, they did not engage in any illegal conduct while planting the trees, nor was there any evidence of an economic advantage that was harmed. Thus, the entire judgment was reversed. Although the Mastromarcos applied for cert. from the unreported decision of the Court of Special Appeals, their petition was denied.