Jacque v. Steenberg Homes, Inc. Case Brief

Summary of Jacque v. Steenberg Homes, Inc., 563 N.W.2d 154, Supreme Court of Wisconsin (1997)

Jacque – Plaintiff/Appellant/Appellant Landowner

Steenberg Homes – Defendant/Appellee/Appellee Tresspasser


P – seeking nominal and punitive damages for intentional tresspass

? – seeking to set aside award of punitive damage award

Legal Theories

P – punitive damages are reasonable because the trespasser’s conduct was egregious and deceitful

? – judicial precedent precludes the award of punitive damages

Procedural History – P was awarded nominal and punitive damages by jury at trial court. The award was set aside by trial ct. and P appealed. Appeals Ct. affirmed the trial ct action, and P appealed to Supreme Ct who reversed and remanded the case back to the trial court with instructions.

Facts – ? sought permission from P to cross his land to deliver a trailer. ? would have otherwise had to take the trailer through a dangerous section of road and use special equipment to negotiate the curves. P denied permission, and ? ordered his employees to cross P land anyway.

Issue – Can punitive damages be awarded when a nominal award was given by the jury?

Holding – Yes

Judgment – Reversed and remanded with instructions.

Reasoning – A landowner’s right to exclude another is a fundamental property right. Society must have faith the court will uphold that right and will punish and deter those who commit an intentional trespass.


Rule: Every person has a constitutional right to the exclusive enjoyment of his own property for any purpose which does not invade the rights of another.

Rule: The private landowner’s right to exclude others from his or her land is “one of the most essential sticks in the bundle of rights that are commonly characterized as property."

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