Friday, May 23, 2014

There is No Claim for Pooping and Scooping

A funny opinion from Justice E.M. Morgan of the Superior Court of Justice--Ontario has been making the rounds this week. I agree with Lowering the Bar, which called the opinion "great stuff."

The suit that precipitated the opinion was a dispute between neighbors in a wealthy Toronto neighborhood who apparently relish annoying the hell out of each other. The plaintiffs kept at least two security cameras aimed at the defendants' house and presented evidence of a "dog urination" incident in which the defendants allowed their dog to mark the hedge at the edge of the plaintiffs' lawn and a "dog feces" incident in which the defendants disposed of bagged dog excrement in the plaintiffs' trash can, which was on the street for pickup at the time.

The parties apparently legally,  but "annoyingly," parked their cars on the street in front of the other's house, and the respective wives had shouted at each other while one gave "the finger" to the other. The parties made other similar claims against each other, but in what Justice Morgan describes as the piece de resistance of their suit, the plaintiffs alleged the defendants "sometimes stand in their own driveway or elsewhere on their property and look at the [p]laintiffs’ house."  

In his opinion, Justice Morgan scolds the parties, highly educated, successful people, for acting like children and dismisses the suit, but his recitation of the parties' behavior and claims is worth its weight in gold. The opinion, in my view, contains just the right amount of snark and sarcasm--enough to (hopefully) make the parties realize how silly they have acted without belittling them. (See this response letter for the type of bad, belittling snark I'm talking about).

For example, in response to the claim the defendants look at the plaintiffs' house, Justice Morgan notes:

One of the video exhibits shows [the defendant-wife] doing just that, casting her gaze from her own property across the street and resting her eyes on the [p]laintiffs’ abode for a full 25 seconds. There is no denying that [the defendant-wife] is guilty as charged. The camera doesn’t lie.

Unsurprisingly, Justice Morgan doesn't find that conduct (or any of the other alleged bad acts) actionable and goes on to hold:

There is no claim for pooping and scooping into the neighbour’s garbage can, and there is no claim for letting Rover water the neighbour’s hedge. Likewise, there is no claim for looking at the neighbour’s pretty house, parking a car legally but with malintent, engaging in faux photography on a public street, raising objections at a municipal hearing, walking on the sidewalk with dictaphone in hand, or just plain thinking badly of a person who lives nearby.

You must read the whole opinion, available here, for full effect.

Happy Friday!

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