JUNGHEE KIM SPICER and DAVID SPICER, wife and husband; YAKIMA ARTS ACADEMY, a Washington limited liability company, Respondents,
PAUL PATNODE, individually and on behalf of the marital community, Appellant.
Lawrence-Berrey, C. J.
the course of four months, Paul Patnode regularly and
repeatedly remote-started his Ford F-250 pickup, revved its
engine, and activated its alarm to scare Junghee Spicer's
young piano students as they walked past his truck on the way
to their piano lessons. Mr. Patnode's purpose was to
interfere with Ms. Spicer's piano lesson business and to
cause her severe distress. He failed in his first objective,
but accomplished the second. The trial court found in favor
of Ms. Spicer on her claim of outrage and awarded her $40,
primary question we answer is whether Mr. Patnode's
conduct was sufficiently outrageous and extreme to sustain
the trial court's award. Conduct that is done
infrequently merely to annoy a person cannot form the basis
of an outrage claim. But the same conduct, done frequently
over a period of weeks or months with the intent to cause
severe emotional distress to a person, can form the basis of
an outrage claim. We hold that Mr. Patnode's conduct was
sufficiently outrageous and extreme to present a question of
fact. For this reason, we defer to the finder of fact and
prior to purported tortious conduct
and Melissa Patnode live across Lyle Loop Road from Junghee
and David Spicer. In 2009, Ms. Spicer began teaching private
piano lessons in her home, mostly to children. That year, Mr.
Spicer suffered a stroke. Three years later, he had to retire
early. To supplement their income, Ms. Spicer increased the
number of piano lessons she taught.
February 2012, Mr. Patnode complained to the Spicers about
Ms. Spicer's piano teaching business. Unable to resolve
the problems, Mr. Patnode complained to Yakima County. His
complaints included increased traffic, damage to a sprinkler
in his front yard, noise from car doors shutting and remotely
locking, and headlights coming into his house.
complaints prompted Yakima County to require the Spicers to
obtain a conditional use permit for their business. On July
11, 2012, the Spicers obtained a minor home occupation permit
from Yakima County. The permit authorized Ms. Spicer to teach
piano lessons for up to five students per day. Lessons were
permitted from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday,
September through May. The permit required the Spicers to
provide off-street parking for customers.
August 2012, Yakima County issued a modified permit that
authorized Ms. Spicer to provide lessons for two additional
months per year and increase the number of students to six
per day. The Spicers were still required to provide
off-street parking for customers.
2012, Mr. Patnode continued complaining to Yakima County
about Ms. Spicer's business. His complaints included Ms.
Spicer teaching instruments other than piano and teaching
outside the authorized hours. In addition, he complained that
parents dropped their children off and picked them up along
the street. He believed that this violated the off-street
December 2012, Mr. Patnode sued the Spicers and alleged that
their piano business violated the restrictive covenants that
applied to the neighborhood. In 2014, the Spicers prevailed
on summary judgment. Mr. Patnode was ordered to pay more than
$30, 000 for the Spicers' attorney fees and costs.
2014, the city of Selah annexed the parties'
neighborhood. Mr. Patnode began complaining to the city of
Selah that Ms. Spicer continued to violate her modified
permit. That year, the Spicers formed Yakima Arts Academy,
LLC (YAA). Ms. Spicer, through YAA, continued to teach piano
lessons, both in her house and also in a leased building in
around Thanksgiving 2015 to March 24, 2016, Mr. Patnode
parked his Ford F-250 diesel pickup along the sidewalk next
to the Spicers' residence where piano students entered
the Spicers' home. Other vehicles belonging to Mr.
Patnode or his household also parked along the Spicers'
side of the street.
this time, Mr. Patnode regularly and repeatedly
remote-started his F-250 and set off its alarm when Ms.
Spicer's students and their parents walked by the F-250.
Ms. Spicer observed this conduct approximately 12 times. When
Ms. Spicer observed this conduct, it frightened her and her
students. Mr. Spicer observed this conduct about six times.
Spicer's 2016 anti-harassment petition
2016, Ms. Spicer petitioned for an anti-harassment order
against Mr. Patnode. Based on evidence presented at the
anti-harassment hearing, the court granted Ms. Spicer's
request and entered an anti-harassment order. The order
prevented Mr. Patnode from parking vehicles on Ms.
Spicer's side of the street and required him to disable
the remote-start and alarm for his F-250. Mr. Patnode
complied with the order.
grant of summary judgment for the Spicers
2016, the Spicers filed this lawsuit against Mr. Patnode.
They sought damages for intentional interference with their
piano business and damages for intentional infliction of
emotional distress. Prior to trial, the Spicers moved for
partial summary judgment. The motion sought to preclude Mr.
Patnode from disputing (1) his conduct had no legitimate or
lawful purpose and (2) his conduct caused Ms. Spicer
substantial emotional distress. The Spicers contended that
these issues had already been litigated and necessarily
decided when they obtained the anti-harassment order in March
2016. The trial court granted their motion.
trial, Ms. Spicer testified that Mr. Patnode's conduct
caused her severe emotional distress because she feared for
her safety and the safety of her children and students. She
explained that Mr. Patnode's remote-starting his truck
scared her because she was concerned he would "go to the
next step and actually physically harm somebody." Report
of Proceedings at 131.
Spicer testified that Mr. Patnode caused her to suffer from
anxiety and insomnia, and that she began taking anti-anxiety
medication in 2013. At some point after Mr. Patnode began
remote-starting his truck, Ms. Spicer began taking an
additional antianxiety medication.
parents and one piano student testified about arriving for
and leaving from piano lessons between Thanksgiving 2015 and
March 24, 2016. They testified they observed Mr.
Patnode's F-250 remotely starting, its engine revving,
and its alarm activating on multiple occasions. One parent
testified that this made her scared and concerned for her
children's safety. One student testified that
every time he had a piano lesson between those
dates, he observed the F-250 remotely start, its engine rev
loudly, and its alarm activate. The parents did not take
their children out of piano lessons with Ms. Spicer, and the
student who testified did not quit taking lessons from Ms.
trial court found that Mr. Patnode did not cause any loss of
business to the Spicers. The court, however, did find that
Mr. Patnode's conduct was sufficiently outrageous to
constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress. The
trial court further found that Ms. Spicer, but not Mr.
Spicer, had proved compensable damages.
trial court entered the following findings of fact to which
Mr. Patnode assigns error:
23. In 2016, Ms. Spicer filed a petition for an
anti-harassment order against Mr. Patnode. The Court takes
judicial notice that following a hearing, the Yakima County
Superior Court orally concluded that Mr. Patnode was remotely
starting his F-250 and setting off vehicle alarms and doing
so on purpose repeatedly for the purpose of harassing the
Spicers, making their lives more difficult. . .
32. Junghee Spicer suffered severe emotional distress as a
result of Mr. Patnode parking vehicles on the street
alongside the Spicers [sic] house from Thanksgiving 2015 to
March 24, 2016, and regularly and repeatedly remote starting
his F-250 pickup (which included revving the engine, lights
turning on) and remotely setting off the vehicle alarm while
it was parked on the street alongside the Spicers' house,
where children/students and their parents were walking to and
from lessons at the Spicers' residence.
33. The conduct of Mr. Patnode described above was directed
towards Ms. Spicer. Mr. Patnode sought to interfere with the
Spicers' music business. Ms. Spicer was the direct
recipient of Mr. Patnode's conduct even though she was
not present for, and did not observe, all instances when Mr.
Patnode remote-started his F-250 or remotely set off the