Siegel & Associates
1133 Westwood Blvd.
West Palm Beach, Florida
John J. Doe
October 1, 2010
Peters v. Detman
This memorandum assesses the merits of Anne Peters’ in West Palm Beach, Florida, for possible claims against Don and Betty Detman for intentional infliction of emotional distress and for violation of Florida’s Spite Fence statute. FACTS
Anne Peters owns the property at 915 Sea Crest Drive in West Palm Beach, Florida. Peters, who is seventy-three years old and was widowed fifteen years ago, has lived at this address for most of her life. About six months ago, Don and Betty Detman, both forty-eight years old, bought the property at 905 Sea Crest Drive, next door to Peters. The Detmans were delighted with their purchase because they had wanted, for years, to own oceanfront property. Don Detman started out as a carpenter, but over the years, he built up a very profitable construction business. Recently, Don Detman sold his business and used the money to buy his dream house. When the Detmans moved in, they walked over to meet their new neighbor. Peters was recovering from the flu and asked her housekeeper to send these strangers away. The Detmans were incensed that their "good neighbor" visit had been rejected. They started referring to Peters as "that rich seacoast snob." Shortly after moving in, Don Detman built a tennis court on his property. It seemed to Peters that Don Detman played tennis all day every day. An avid gardener, Peters could patiently spend hours tending her flowers, most of which were planted near the property line she shared with the Detmans. The racket coming from the Detmans' tennis court, however, annoyed her so much that she found it difficult to work in her garden for any length of time. When Peters complained, Don Detman curtly reminded her that the court was his and that he could do anything on his property that he wanted to. Occasionally, tennis balls would bounce from the Detmans' court into Peters' flower beds. Once, when she was gardening, a tennis ball landed in the rose bush she was trimming and startled her. Without thinking, she stood up and shouted: "Keep your damn tennis balls to yourself! They're ruining my flowers!" "Okay, lady," Don Detman said, "if you want me to keep the tennis balls out of your garden, you've got it!" The next day, a construction crew erected a fence along the Peters/Detman property line. The fence was twelve feet high and blocked the sun to Peters' flower gardens. Her plants yellowed and began to die. Peters wrote the Detmans a note, explaining the damage the fence was doing to her flowers and asking if there might be another way to keep the tennis balls out of her yard. The Detmans never replied to her note, but the next time Don Detman saw Peters, Detman said, "You're the one who wanted the fence, not me. So you'll just have to learn to live with it." Peters retreated to her house in tears. The more she thought about that incident and the damage the fence was doing to her garden, the angrier she became. She developed a nervous tic in one eye that would not go away for days. A week later, the Detmans installed mercury vapor security lights on their beach and home. These bright lights shone into Peters' windows at night, making sleep difficult. Peters wanted to complain, but decided it would be useless. The lights also completely illuminated a small cove on her beach where, for years, Peters had loved to swim nude before going to bed. One night, when neither the Detmans' beach lights nor the lights in their house were on, Peters decided it was probably safe to go for a swim before retiring. As soon as she was in the water, however, the lights came on, and Peters saw to her horror the Detmans and several other people heading toward the Detmans' beach. Once there, they settled into beach chairs and began to talk. Peters stayed as still as she could, hoping not to attract their attention. Within...
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