RICHARD TRANFIELD et al.
Argued: June 26, 2019
W. Baiungo, Esq. (orally), Belfast, for appellant Patricia
F. Strout, Esq. (orally), Rockport, for appellees Richard
Tranfield and Karla Doremus-Transfield
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Majority: SAUFLEY, C.J., and MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Patricia Arcuni-English appeals from a judgment of the
Superior Court (Knox County, Wheeler, J.) in favor
of Richard Tranfield and Karla Doremus-Tranfield (the
Tranfields) on their complaint alleging that
Arcuni-English's installation of trees on the
parties' boundary line constituted a nuisance pursuant to
both Maine's spite fence statute, 17 M.R.S. § 2801
(2018), and common law. We affirm the judgment.
The court found the following facts, which are supported by
competent record evidence. See Rice v. Cook, 2015 ME
49, ¶ 3, 115 A.3d 86. In January 2016, the Tranfields
purchased a parcel of land that abuts and is uphill from
Arcuni-English's property. At that time, the Tranfield
property had a slot view of the ocean out across
Arcuni-English's property, but Arcuni-English was still
afforded privacy by trees and overgrown shrubbery at lower
levels on the parties' boundary line.
On the day the Tranfields moved in, Mr. Tranfield went onto
Arcuni-English's property to ask if he could use some of
her firewood. She was not home, and he took some wood.
Arcuni-English saw him in her driveway, did not recognize
him, and thought that he was stealing her firewood. Later,
Mr. Tranfield was removing a tree near a shed on his property
and limbing dead branches on his property along the
parties' boundary line. Arcuni-English approached him,
expressing anger that he was cutting trees without discussing
it with his neighbors beforehand. Arcuni-English then told
Mr. Tranfield that she would put up a ten-foot fence to block
the Tranfields' view. Additionally, Arcuni-English
expressed displeasure with the Tranfields removing a koi pond
on their property and with the fact that their dogs had
urinated and defecated on her property.
Later, while Arcuni-English was traveling, a local landscaper
who works for both parties sent Arcuni-English a photograph
of the parties' boundary line. The Tranfields had cleared
much of the deadwood and debris on their property, thereby
opening up a view of their house to Arcuni-English's
property. Arcuni-English was devastated by the
Tranfields' action on their property. She called the
landscaper and told him that she needed trees and privacy,
and they discussed how to do it.
In April 2016, the landscaper planted approximately
twenty-four arborvitaes along the boundary line. These trees
were ten to twelve feet in height; some shorter trees were
also installed to create an additional row to fill in any
gaps. The landscaper installed seven four-to-six-foot pine
trees near a structure on Arcuni-English's property.
The Tranfields filed a complaint against
Arcuni-English in the Superior Court alleging that the
plantings constituted a nuisance and seeking damages and
injunctive relief. A bench trial was held on September 29,
2017, and on February 9, 2018, the court entered a judgment
in favor of the Tranfields. In determining that
Arcuni-English had installed a spite fence, the court relied
on the following facts, all of which are supported by
competent evidence in the record:
[T]he relationship between the Tranfields and
Arcuni[-]English was poor from the first day the Tranfields
moved to the neighborhood and tried to borrow firewood. The
relationship became increasingly contentious . . . [and b]y
the time Mr. Tranfield limbed the dead branches from the
trees on his side of the property line opening up his
property to . . . Arcuni[-]English's property, . . .
Arcuni[-]English decided ...