Sundowner, Inc. v. King

95 Idaho 367, 509 P.2d 785 (1973)



No property owner has the right to erect and maintain an otherwise useless structure for the sole purpose of injuring his neighbor. This rule is applicable only to structures which serve no useful purpose and which are erected for the sole purpose of injuring adjoining property owners.


In 1966, Robert Bushnell sold a motel to defendants-appellants King. Bushnell then built another motel, the Desert Inn, on property immediately adjoining that sold to the Kings. Litigation was filed by defendants against plaintiff for alleged misrepresentations in the sale. Two years later, defendants built a large sign 16 inches from the boundary line between the parties' properties. The sign was 85 feet in length and 18 feet in height. It paralleled plaintiff's motel, obscuring 80 percent of the building and restricting the passage of light and air to its rooms. The trial court found that the sign was a "spite fence" and ordered its partial abatement. The court held that defendants had no legal right to maliciously use their property for the avowed purpose of damaging plaintiff.


Does a trial court err in requiring partial abatement of a structure on the basis that it was built for the sole purpose of annoying a neighbor?




Under the modern American rule, one may not erect a structure for the sole purpose of annoying his neighbor. Many courts hold that a spite fence which serves no useful purpose may give rise to an action for both injunctive relief and damages. Appellants King assign error to findings and conclusions of the trial court relating to the applicability and interpretation of Caldwell Zoning Ordinance No. 1085. Our disposition of this appeal makes it unnecessary to consider those issues.

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