Salazar v. Matejcek

Facts: An owner of a densely forested vacation property with access to water from an adjacent spring is approached by a prospective buyer who offers to buy the property. Before offering to purchase the property, the buyer examines the owner’s property records and boundary lines. The prospective buyer repeatedly offers to purchase the property and intimidates the owner by their mannerisms, each time being rejected by the owner. The prospective buyer then purchases an adjacent property with no access to the spring and constructs a road, a pond, a marijuana garden and an irrigation system connected to the spring all of which encroach onto the owner’s property without their knowledge or consent. Several trees are removed during the neighbor’s construction; however no evidence exists of a diminution of the property’s value.

Claim: The property owner seeks triple the money losses for the restoration of their property, claiming the property’s value was diminished in spite of the lack of evidence of a loss in value since the buyer acted willfully and maliciously in removing their trees and deliberately ignored the property’s boundary lines and the encroachment and timber removal constitute a “personal reason” for restoration of the property.

Counterclaim: The prospective buyer claims their encroachment was unintentional and no damage was committed on the property since no evidence exists of a reduction in the property’s value.

Holding: A California court of appeals holds the property owner may recover triple the money losses for the restoration of their property since money losses may be awarded without a diminution in property value and the buyer’s actions were willful and malicious as they acted with deliberate indifference to the rights of the property owner.  [Salazar v. Matejcek (March 10, 2016) __CA4th__] Read the case text.