Posted by: Patricia Salkin | March 9, 2015

MT Supreme Court Upholds Dismissal of Spite Fence Claim by Golf Course and Finds Court Below Improperly Determined Nuisance Claim

Annette and Aaron Efta, Paul Corcoran, and the Appellants (collectively “the Plaintiffs”) own Lots 4, 5A, 6A, 7, 8, 9, and 10 of the 17th Filing for Lake Hills Subdivision. Lake Hills Golf, LLC owns Lot 5 in Tract B1 (“Golf Course Property”), which is also in the Lake Hills Subdivision and is adjacent to the Plaintiffs’ properties. The present case concerns a wall that the Defendants constructed near the border shared by the Golf Course Property and the Plaintiffs’ properties. Following completion of the wall, the Plaintiffs sued the Defendants, claiming, in relevant part, that the wall was constructed in violation of the Restrictions, that the wall constituted a nuisance, and that the wall constituted a spite fence. The District Court granted summary judgment on the claim that the wall was a spite fence. It determined that recovery on a spite fence claim is only allowed where the defendant receives no benefit from the wall or fence. Deciding that there was no genuine issue that the wall in this case prevented trash and trespassers from entering the golf course’s 10th fairway and deciding that this was a beneficial, non-spite use, the District Court granted summary judgment and dismissed the spite fence claim.

The court noted that the District Court erred in its interpretation of what a nuisance was, and instead relied on a Montana statute, which stated “anything that is injurious to health, indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property … is a nuisance.” Therefore, the court found that while there are beneficial uses to defendants from such activities and structures, such beneficial or reasonable uses should not have prevented this Court or lower courts from finding that the activities and structures were nuisances. Since no evidence indicated the Defendants waived the covenant against building on the land, or that such a wall was incidental to the use of the golf course, the court reversed the District Court’s holdings as to the nuisance claim and remanded the case.

Bennett v Hill, 2015 WL 446551 (MT 2/3/2105)

The opinion can be accessed at: https://mtlawlibrary.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/opinion-bennett-et-al-v-hill-et-al/


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