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David Plotnik et al. v. John Meihaus et al.

(2012)

Court of Appeal of the State of California - 208 Cal.App.4th 1590, 208 Cal. App. 4th 1590

tl;dr:

Breaching a contract to not harass a neighbor allows for an award of emotional distress damages.

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Case Summary

In the 2012 case of Plotnik v. Meihaus, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, examined a neighbor dispute involving physical violence and emotional distress. The case reached the appellate level after an appeal from a superior court judgment.

David and Joyce Plotnik sued their neighbor, John Meihaus Jr., and two of his sons for breaching a settlement agreement from a previous lawsuit about a fence. This agreement included a mutual restraint clause forbidding harassment between parties.

The plaintiffs also accused the defendants of assaulting David, trespassing on their property, and injuring their dog with a baseball bat. They sought damages for physical injuries, property damage, and emotional distress.

The court granted the plaintiffs their requested damages but at lower amounts after a remittitur. The defendants appealed these judgments.

The Court of Appeal partially upheld the superior court's decisions. It found enough evidence that John Meihaus Jr. had breached the mutual restraint clause and that the emotional distress damages for hurting the dog were proper under California law.

However, there was insufficient evidence for the assault claim against Greg Meihaus and John Meihaus III. The emotional distress damages were found to be excessive and considered double recovery, which is not allowed.

This case highlights the legal challenges in neighbor disputes involving contract and tort claims, such as breach of contract, assault, trespass, emotional distress, and double recovery. It is relevant for anyone wanting to understand their rights and obligations in neighbor conflicts.

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Facts & HoldingDavid Plotnik et al. v. John Meihaus et al. case brief facts & holding

Facts:Plaintiff Plotnik and Defendant Meihaus were neighbors. They got into...

Holding:The jury verdict was affirmed. The Court of Appeal found...

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The plaintiffs sued their neighbor and his sons for contract and tort claims after their dog was injured. The superior court awarded damages, including emotional distress damages, which the defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal upheld the damage awards for Meihaus's breach of the settlement agreement, as the express object of the contract was the mental and emotional well-being of one of the parties. The court found some of the defendants' claims to have merit and further reduced the damages. The Court of Appeal of the State of California reversed the judgment awarding damages against Greg Meihaus and John Meihaus III for assault against David Plotnik, but allowed emotional distress damages for harm caused to the plaintiffs' dog. The court upheld the economic and emotional distress damages plaintiffs recovered for trespass to personal property arising from the defendant's act of intentionally striking the pet with a bat. The verdicts were reversed because they violated the rule against double recovery. The court upheld the recovery on intentional infliction of emotional distress grounds, but reversed the damage awards both plaintiffs recovered against Meihaus for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court also upheld the trial court's order awarding plaintiffs legal expenses, finding that plaintiffs are entitled to prevail on the contract claim. The recovery awarded to plaintiffs was under the contract and not in tort.

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