A lawsuit against a barking dog is about to evict a Seattle family from their home.
Citizens have always had a right to ignore a lawsuit, but just like illness or bullies, you may keep “forgetting,” but they won’t go away. Dennis Norton, a Seattle resident, learned the lesson the hard way when she found out that a lawsuit she has tried to ignore could end up costing dearly. At stake is her North Seattle home.
Norton’s neighbor, Woodrow Thompson, had filed a lawsuit alleging that the sound of barking from Norton’s dog, Cawper, was intentionally causing him “profound emotional distress.” In the 36-page complaint, Thompson claimed that the canine’s “raucously, wildly bellowing, howling and explosively barking” was capable of reaching 128 decibels. As per the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration — the Labor Department agency tasked with enforcing safe working conditions — a person should not be exposed to a noise of 115 decibels for more than 15 minutes a day.
Interestingly, if Thompson’s claim is indeed correct, Cawper’s bark is a lot louder than an ambulance siren and just shy of the noise a jet engine makes at takeoff.
If the claims sound ludicrous to you, it is exactly what Norton felt.
“In my head, everything was so bogus that he’d been doing, I don’t know why, I just didn’t think it was real or something,” she said.
Hence, even when she was served with court papers, Norton chose not to respond and simply ignore the whole thing.
However, the court doesn’t forget, and the lawsuit wasn’t bogus at all. Because Norton didn’t challenge her neighbor’s claims, Thompson won $500,000 from the court by default. Imagine the horror when a Sheriff turned up at her place to put up “For Sale” signs.
“The sheriff comes, puts the papers on the garage and the wall and everything and saying they were going to put the house up for sale.”
Needless to say, the Nortons are now dipping into their savings to get the decision reversed, but the road ahead isn’t smooth. Mike Fandel, a civil attorney unrelated to the case, explained that winning a frivolous lawsuit is quite easy when the other side doesn’t respond. However, now that a judgment has been made, getting the case dismissed or the decision reversed will prove to be a tough challenge.
“If you think it ought to be dismissed, it will only be dismissed if you ask the court to do it.”
Despite repeatedly wondering, “How can you give somebody a half-a-million-dollar lien over a dog barking? He’s just a loving, nice dog,” Norton admits she made a huge mistake ignoring the court and has vowed to fix it.
[Image Credit | Komo News]