Disputes between neighbors make up the most common civil cases in the local court and can quickly suck bank accounts dry with no favorable resolution, some lawyers say.
Police get calls regarding disputes between neighbors every day and often can do little more than refer people to the courts, local sheriff’s deputies said, which can lead to lengthy court battles between stubborn parties.
Grass Valley resident Robert Vitone has spent about $150,000 on attorneys’ fees, electric fencing and surveillance cameras to guard against neighbors who allegedly threw Asian pornography over the fence ” Vitone’s wife is of Asian descent.
The neighbor’s sons also allegedly shot his pet steer, Ju-Ju, between the eyes with a paintball, he said.
Vitone’s neighbors deny all his allegations, and the two sides have been in and out of court for two years on restraining order violations and unsuccessful mediation attempts.
“(Vitone) has no inclination in the universe of how to deal with people,” Vitone’s neighbor Jack Willard said Thursday. “He has no proof other than his big fat mouth.”
“I’m not going to back down until I get an apology or I get my money back,” Vitone said on a recent tour of his home, where he has installed 16 surveillance cameras and electric fencing encircling his five acres on Norvin Way.
“(Vitone) will never, ever get an apology,” Willard said.
Once provoked, many neighbors intentionally try to annoy one another, police said.
Angry neighbors will push the envelope just short of breaking the law. When police are called, there often is nothing they can do, Nevada County sheriff’s Capt. Ron Smith said.
“We respond, and depending on what we see, we often have to explain no crime has occurred,” he said. “We’re not supposed to give legal advice, and we refer them to the courts.”
Real estate lawyer Tim Jensen gets a lot of these cases, and says it’s better to calmly talk things out instead of making accusations and getting neighbors into a “hot blooded” fight where neither side will budge.
“Bring over some Jack Daniels and a pie instead,” Jensen said, adding a friendly conversation or two about a contentious issue is a lot more preferable than getting lawyers involved.
Many attorneys will not attempt mediation until they bill a certain amount, Jensen said. He knows of one law firm that won’t suggest mediation until they’ve collected $30,000 from a client, he added.
Jensen has handled about 30 neighbor dispute cases, and none have gone to trial. The only good resolution, he said, comes through mediation and settlement.
Some judges, such as retired Nevada County Judge Albert Dover, will not let attorneys and their clients leave the courthouse without coming to a resolution, Jensen said.
“He’d say, ‘Go into the jury room and don’t come out until you’ve settled this,'” Jensen said. “It was great.”
Vitone, however, said his pockets are deep and he doesn’t plan on giving up any time soon until he gets what he wants ” an apology or money.
“A lawsuit will be filed soon,” Vitone said. “It’s all about the principle now.”
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4236.
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