DENNIS D. & DIANE M. BLEVINS, Plaintiffs,
HOPE L. METZGAR AND ROBERT O. METZGAR, JR., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
M. DAVIS, JUDGE.
civil action involves the cutting and removal of trees from a
residential property in Townsend, Delaware. Through the
complaint, Plaintiffs Diane and Dennis Blevins assert claims
for Timber Trespass, Trespass to Chattels, and Conversion
against Defendants Hope and Robert Metzgar. The Metzgars have
asserted counterclaims for Unjust Enrichment, Malicious
Prosecution/Bad Faith, and Abuse of Process. Before the Court
is (i) Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (the
"Motion") filed by the Metzgars; and (ii)
Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment (the "Response") filed
by the Blevins. For the reason set forth below, the Court
DENIES the Motion.
Blevins own and reside at 151 Lloyd Guessford Road in
Townsend, Delaware (Parcel No. 1401900180) (the "Blevins
Property"). The Blevins Property consists of
approximately 2.12 acres of land. The Blevins purchased the
Blevins Property in 2012. The Blevins, however, did not begin
residing on the Blevins Property until 2015.
Metzgars own 149 Lloyd Guessford Road in Townsend, Delaware
(Parcel No. 1401900208) (the "Metzgar Property").
The Metzgars purchased the Metzgar Property in 1996 and have
resided on this property ever since. The Metzgar Property is
in the shape of a "popsicle stick" and consists of
approximately 6.8 acres of land. The Blevins Property and the
Metzgar Property are adjacent to each other. The
Metzgars' home sits about ten feet from the Blevins'
Blevins allege that from April 22, 2015 to May 25, 2015, the
Metzgars entered the Blevins Property and cut down
approximately forty feet of trees and foliage. The Blevins
contend that the Metzgars kept the timber for their own use.
The Blevins surmise that the Metzgars cut the trees in order
to create a more direct access to the rear of their property
where a large patio had recently been installed.
Metzgars admit to removing the trees, but claim they did not
know the trees were on the Blevins Property. Additionally,
the Metzgars claim that the trees and other vegetation
removed were either dead or had no value. The Metzgars
further justify removing the trees because the trees were at
risk of falling on the Metzgars' home. The Metzgars
contend that since they removed the trees, the Blevins have
mulched, planted shrubs and flowers, and otherwise improved
7, 2016, the Blevins filed a Complaint against the Metzgars
for Timber Trespass, Trespass to Chattels, and Conversion.
The Complaint states that the Metzgars are liable to the
Blevins for the replacement value of the trees, including the
cost for reestablishment of the forest area.
Metzgars filed their Answer and Counterclaims on July 21,
2016. The Metzgars counterclaim for Unjust Enrichment,
Malicious Prosecution/Bad Faith, and Abuse of Process.
Answer states that the Metzgars enriched the Blevins by
removing dead and dangerous trees from their property, and
that the Blevins have brought this action in an effort to
harass and intimidate the Metzgars.
Metzgars move for summary judgment on all three counts in the
Complaint. As to the Count I claim for Timber Trespass, the
Metzgars allege that the Blevins have shown no evidence of
damages based on a legally accepted tree valuation method or
reliably established the area denuded by the Metzgars. As to
the Counts II and III claims for Trespass to Chattels and
Conversion, the Metzgars allege that the claims fail because
they are for real property, not personal property.
Blevins contend that their expert relies on the replacement
cost valuation method, which is a legally accepted tree
valuation method. The Blevins further contend that they
sufficiently established an estimate of the disturbed area
for purposes of assessing damages. Finally, the Blevins argue
that their claims for Conversion and Trespass to Chattels are
permissible because trees, once cut, become personal
standard of review on a motion for summary judgment is
well-settled. The Court's principal function when
considering a motion for summary judgment is to examine the
record to determine whether genuine issues of material fact
exist, "but not to decide such
issues."Summary judgment will be granted if, after
viewing the record in a light most favorable to a nonmoving
party, no genuine issues of material fact exist and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
If, however, the record reveals that material facts are in
dispute, or if the factual record has not been developed
thoroughly enough to allow the Court to apply the law to the
factual record, then summary judgment will not be
granted. The moving party bears the initial burden
of demonstrating that the undisputed facts support his ...