Horvitz & Levy persuaded the trial court to grant motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial, eliminating all economic damages and conditionally cutting two-thirds of the punitive damages. H&L also persuaded the court to deny the plaintiffs’ post-trial motions.
In this trespass and nuisance dispute involving neighboring residential properties, the jury found that a wall built on the defendants’ property acted as a dam, creating a ponding nuisance on the plaintiffs’ adjacent property when it rained. The jury rejected the plaintiffs’ intentional trespass claims, however, which alleged that the defendants intentionally entered their property to construct the wall and move boundary markers, and that the wall’s footing encroached slightly onto their property. The jury awarded $25,000 in diminution in value damages for the nuisance, $4,355 in emotional distress damages, and $100,000 in punitive damages.
After the jury trial, the trial court conducted a bench trial on plaintiffs’ equitable claim to abate the nuisance. The court found the nuisance could be abated at a reasonable cost by drilling holes into the wall.
Horvitz & Levy took the lead on preparing defendants’ motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and new trial, as well as the oppositions to plaintiffs’ post-trial motions. Defendants argued that diminution in value damages are unavailable for an abatable nuisance, and that the punitive damages award was excessive.
The court granted defendants’ motion for JNOV, striking the $25,000 diminution in value damages from the judgment because the nuisance was abatable. On the defendants’ motion for a new trial, the court ordered a conditional new trial of the nuisance cause of action unless plaintiffs accept a remittitur (reduction) of the punitive damages, reducing them from $100,000 to $32,000. The court also denied all of plaintiffs’ motions, barring them from obtaining any relief on their trespass claims, while also denying them any additional damages or prejudgment interest.