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Chung v. Park

Supreme Court of Alaska

December 12, 2014

CHRISTOPHER JINSOO CHUNG, Appellant,
v.
RORA PARK, LAKEVIEW LLC, and GLACIER MASONRY & EXCAVATING, INC., Appellees

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Patrick J. McKay, Judge. Superior Court No. 3AN-09-09549 CI.

Susan Orlansky, Susan Orlansky LLC, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Ronald A. Offret, Aglietti, Offret & Woofter, Anchorage, for Appellees Rora Park and Lakeview LLC.

Notice of non-participation filed by Steven D. Smith, Law Offices of Steven D. Smith, Anchorage, for Appellee Glacier Masonry & Excavating, Inc.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

BOLGER, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

A landowner sued her neighbor for trespass, alleging that the neighbor cleared trees from the landowner's property without permission. The superior court found that the

Page 352

tree cutting did not diminish the property value and that there was no reason personal to the landowner for restoring the trees. But the superior court awarded damages equal to the cost of restoring 50 trees on the property.

Ordinarily, a landowner damaged by a trespass may recover either the loss in property value or reasonable restoration costs. But restoration costs are inappropriate if they are disproportionate to the loss in property value, unless there is a reason personal to the landowner for restoring the land. We thus conclude that we must vacate this award.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

In August or September 2007, Rora Park began leasing a unit (Unit 13) on her property to Christopher Chung. Chung agreed to make some improvements to Unit 13 and a chapel on the property, and Park agreed to offset the rent according to the value of Chung's work.[1] Soon thereafter, Park sold an adjacent lot (Lot 3) to Chung, on which Chung intended to build a house.

Chung hired Glacier Masonry and Excavation, Inc. (Glacier) to build the foundation of the new house on Lot 3 in August 2008. As part of that project, Glacier agreed to clear trees and other vegetation from the lot. While Glacier was removing trees from Lot 3, one of its employees, a man named Tracy, was discovered clearing vegetation in the power line easement between Lot 3 and Park's adjacent lot. One witness suggested Tracy may have gone " four or five [f]eet" beyond the boundary of Lot 3. Because Glacier did not have a permit to work in the easement and there was a significant fine for working in the easement without a permit, Glacier's owner immediately told Tracy to leave the easement and work elsewhere. Glacier's owner testified that Tracy " said that he was clearing out there to get a view, and that he'd been paid by ...


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