Day: May 27, 2014

Neighbours Going Viral

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Feature Blogger: Reché McKeague

On May 20, 2014, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released a judgment that quickly went viral. Morland-Jones v Taerk, 2014 ONSC 3061, was described variously by people in my social media feeds as “not just a judgment, but rather perhaps the most perfect short story I have read,” “litigious ridiculousness,” and, simply, “awesome.”

What kind of judgment engenders this kind of interest and response from lawyers? One which is changing the law as we know it? One dealing with matters of national importance? No. The judgment at issue, viewed over 38,500 times in its first 48 hours on CanLII and with two commentaries on CanLII Connects within a day, is about bickering neighbours.

The parties “live in stately houses on a well-manicured, picturesque street” in Toronto. The plaintiffs have two of their 11 security cameras trained on the defendants’ front door and driveway. (The defendants did not counter-claim.) The plaintiffs’ allegations against their across-the-street neighbours include:

  • Performing a “poop and scoop” – after removing and bagging dog feces from her front yard, the defendant crossed the street and placed the bag in the plaintiffs’ garbage can which was out on the street for collection;
  • Allowing their dog to occasionally urinate on the bushes lining the plaintiffs’ lawn;
  • Parking their car in a legal parking spot in front of the plaintiffs’ house “just to annoy them” (which is rich, as the plaintiffs’ non-stop security footage shows the plaintiffs’ park in front of the defendants’ house every day);
  • Standing on their driveway and taking pictures of the plaintiffs’ house across the street (which allegation the defendants deny by advising that the defendant was only pretending to take pictures); and,
  • Standing on their property and looking at the plaintiffs’ house.

The subject-matter of the claim is certainly ridiculous. This may be part of the reason for the judgment’s popularity. However, what really makes the judgment fun to read is the judge’s obvious disdain for the parties: “In my view, the parties do not need a judge; what they need is a rather stern kindergarten teacher.” At least one commentator has suggested that the tone of the judgment is inappropriate, and that “[i]t is not the duty of the judge to make fun of the litigants.” Be that as it may, it is the most entertaining judgment I’ve read since R v Duncan, 2013 ONCJ 160.