Court of Petty Appeals: Greene, et al., v. Coleburn, et al.

Greene, et al. v. Coleburn, et al. 863 U.Va. 120 (2018)

Zablocki, J., announced the opinion of the Court in an opinion joined by Dostal, Ranzini, and Malkowski, JJ. VanderMeulen, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in part, dissenting in part, and concurring in the judgment.

Justice Zablocki, for the Court.


Petitioner Greene, who represents an entire class of individuals frustrated at their roommates’ environmentally unfriendly tendencies, prays that we recognize the following claims against the class known by the surname of named respondent Coleburn: (1) temperature-inflicted assault and battery, (2) wanton waste and/or destruction of natural resources, and, of course, (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress.

On the first claim, Petitioner Greene alleges that during our balmy Virginian summers, his final approach to his apartment is routinely filled with trepidation at the blast of frigid air which will blast him upon opening the door. Petitioner has described this experience as both physically and mind-numbing, referring to his confusion at what necessitates a 65°F thermostat setting. This bewildering effect is especially consternating, Petitioner has explained, in light of the fact that come crisper fall days, the switch is immediately flipped to the heat setting, with the thermostat set to 72°F—a temperature significantly higher than that preferred during warmer months but which is similarly in opposition to the natural temperature and which leads to similarly unwelcoming homecomings.  And then the thermostat may perhaps be flipped back to AC later that same day when the sun’s warming rays streaming in through the window have a greenhouse effect, boosting the temperature to—gasp!—78°F.  In her amicus brief, Chief Justice Emeritus Goldman, who recused herself in order that she be allowed to join in protest of such absurd practices, said the following: “You know it’s out of control when the Floridian says the heat is on too high and the Minnesotan says a bit of Southern heat and humidity would be a welcome respite from the AC.” 


That Petitioner has made Respondent aware of the torturous results of such temperature settings upon Petitioner, and yet that Respondent continues to indulge himself, satisfies this Court that Respondent is intentionally causing Petitioner this angst, thus satisfying the key elements of the assault claim.  Temperature swings á la left hook/right uppercut are, of course, de facto battery. 

This Court therefore finds Respondent liable for assault and battery, and decrees that Respondents’ behavior in setting the thermostat in opposition to Mother Nature, apparently in some show of the power of humanity over nature,[1] is absurd and should cease. 



On the second claim of wanton waste and/or destruction of natural resources, this Court sympathizes with Petitioner. Just because Respondent has the wherewithal to pay astronomical electric bills in order to adjust his apartmental microclimate does not mean Respondent should. In the first instance, this Court loathes such entitlement and views such a practice as a clear step along the pathway to driving a Hummer. In the second, more paternalistic instance, this Court is puzzled why any student would wish to take on additional loans just to fight Mother Nature. In the third instance, which has nothing to do with saving the planet, it’s kind of shitty to unilaterally boost your roommates’ electric bills in order to make yourself comfortable while making them miserable. However, as there is no private cause of action by which Petitioners may do battle on behalf of the planet, this Court chooses to use its equitable powers to expand upon the tort of douchebaggery (see Student Body of UVa v. Thimpson Sacher and Offerees Thereof, 27 U.Va. 203 (2017)).  As described above, Respondent’s behavior is intentional, outrageous (lolz Law Student v. Mother Nature), douchey, and distressing; ergo, without further ado, we find Respondent liable for direct douchebaggery.


This Court takes judicial notice that 65°F is 65°F and 72°F is 72°F no matter the season. We’d cite some scientific principle, but unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately, as at least this isn’t what public funding and grant money is being used for these days—the mathematical property read as “A = A” was deemed too duhhh for anyone to want to take credit, put his (it would totes be a his) name on it, and be immortalized as the person who pointed out the obvious.[2]  In addition, while in the grand scheme of things it is a relatively novel idea, as such innovation has only been around for roughly half a millennium (vs. the wheel c. 3,500 BC), opening or closing a window is in fact an ecological method of climate control with tremendous effectiveness limited to a single room! For instance, if it is November, 71°F in the apartment, and 62°F outside, one can contrive to mix the cooler (fresher!) outdoor air with the warm, allegedly stale air inside the building by sliding the panel of glass up, rather than turning on the AC.  The additional benefit of this method of climate control is the ability to customize one’s own space to personal preference, rather than inflicting such preference upon all cohabitants.


With regard to the IIED claim, this Court is sick and tired of adjudicating such whiny bullshit.  Therefore, rather than going through the motions, the Court leaves it to Respondent to consider whether it is better to have an increasingly pissed-off roomie or, well, oneself constantly hovering on the brink of pissed off due to lack of sleep?  In so ruling, this Court congratulates itself on ensuring a constant stream of future litigation as passive aggression becomes outright aggression and the roomie situation escalates.


In sum, happy Earth Day.  Quit wasting electricity and making your roommates miserable—rather, show a touch of respect for the planet and your fellow humans.


The decision of the court below, enforcing injunctive relief against Respondent and damages of public shaming, three-quarters of recent power bills, two strawberry milkshakes, a bouquet of petunias, and some lemonade, is hereby affirmed.

It is so ordered.


Chief Justice VanderMeulen concurring in part, dissenting in part, and concurring in the judgment.

I join the judgment of the Court, which I find to be judicious and precise. Respondent’s ridiculous manipulation of the apartment thermostat ends here, and the damages due to Petitioner ought to justly redress the class’s injury.

Rather than the Court’s enviro-Marxist nonsense, I uphold the judgment of the Court like a red-blooded American: through objection to waste and entitlement. The environmental impact of Respondent’s profligacy is next to nil, but the vice and sheer outrage of such wastefulness is very real. Respondent demonstrates his moral vacuity and blameworthiness by way of his deplorable self-indulgence, which has inflicted grievous cost on Petitioner and demonstrated Respondent’s own depravity. Only the most despicably self-obsessed among us indulge their own comforts with so little regard for the natural way of the world and their roommates’ pocketbooks.

With this in mind, I join Parts III-A, IV, and VI of the Court’s opinion. I’ll celebrate Earth Day like any good salt-of-the-earth American: by driving a four-wheeler out to a bonfire full of old-growth cedars through a Wetland. But I join with the Court to condemn the vicious waste here occurring.

[1] Because if there’s one thing the last few hurricane seasons have shown, it’s that humanity > nature.

[2] This despite endemic mansplaining—so maybe it’s something beyond obvious even?