SELAH — A state appeals court said a Selah man outrageously tormented his neighbor by revving his truck engine repeatedly for four months because he didn’t want her teaching piano at her home.
In a published 2-1 ruling filed Tuesday, a panel of the Spokane-based Division III Court of Appeals found that Paul Patnode’s campaign against Junghee Kim Spicer’s Yakima Arts Academy was so outrageous that the $40,000 awarded Spicer for emotional distress was justified.
“Had Mr. Patnode remote-started his truck occasionally to scare passing piano students, this would not be actionable. … But this is not what Mr. Patnode did,” Chief Judge Robert Lawrence-Berrey wrote in his 20-page ruling.
“He intended to achieve through harassment what he had been unable to achieve through legal means.”
The inharmonious relationship between the Lyle Loop Road neighbors started in 2012, when Spicer increased the number of piano lessons she gave at her home to supplement the family’s income after her husband, David, had a stroke and retired early, according to court documents.
Yakima County, in response to Patnode’s complaints, required Spicer to get a conditional-use permit for her business that limited hours and the number of students she could teach each day, which she complied with, the documents said.
Patnode sued Spicer, alleging she violated the neighborhood’s restrictive covenants, a case he lost in 2014. He was ordered to pay $30,000 for Spicer’s attorney’s fees and court costs, the documents said.
From Thanksgiving 2015 through March 24, 2016, Patnode parked his Ford F-250 diesel pickup along the sidewalk next to Spicer’s home, and remotely raced the engine and set off the vehicle’s alarm when students would come over.
Spicer and her husband sued Patnode in Yakima County Superior Court, citing intentional interference with her business and infliction of emotional distress. Yakima County Superior Court Judge Gayle Harthcock ordered Patnode to pay $40,000 for the emotional distress his “outrageous conduct” caused.
Lawrence-Berrey was joined by Judge George B. Fearing in his opinion.
Judge Kevin M. Korsmo, in a five-page dissent, said remotely starting a car or setting off a car alarm whenever someone walked past it did not constitute outrageous behavior.
“Mr. Patnode’s behavior was juvenile, childish, oafish, puerile, immature, infantile and lame,” Korsmo wrote. “He was annoying, but he was not outrageous.”