A judge settled a dog-poop dispute between two Forest Hill couples in the most sarcastic way possible
Only in Forest Hill could a dispute over dog poop escalate into a lawsuit. Fortunately for all of us, Justice E.M. Morgan, who was recently forced to spend precious time adjudicating just such a case, turns out to have been the perfect person for the job. His written judgment, released online yesterday, takes what may be the pettiest local legal dispute of the year and smacks down everyone involved in a way that is both devastatingly sarcastic and completely dignified. Wealthy people of Toronto, take note: this is what happens when you actually make good on a threat to sic your lawyer on a neighbour who annoys you.
The exact circumstances of the lawsuit, brought by oil executive John Morland-Jones and his wife against their neighbours, Gary and Audrey Taerk, are unclear, but Justice Morgan does take a little time to revisit some highlights. At one point, he writes about the case’s smoking gun: a video, captured by two cameras the Morland-Joneses keep trained on the Taerks’ property at all times, that shows Audrey Taerk picking up a pile of her dog’s poop with a baggie, then placing it in the Morland-Joneses’ garbage bin.
This mild breach of neighbourly etiquette (it’s not as though the poop was in a flaming bag on someone’s doorstep, after all) became known, in court, as “the dog feces incident.” Here’s what the judge had to say about it:
The Morland-Joneses even called in a few neighbours to testify on their behalf. Evidently, none of them were that enthused at the prospect of participating in the dog-poop witch hunt:
Also at issue: the fact that the Taerks sometimes turn their heads in the direction of the Morland-Joneses’ house. In other words, the Morland-Joneses wanted a superior court judge to punish their next-door neighbours for sometimes looking in their direction. The judge seems to have taken some grim pleasure in this:
It’s at this point in the judgment that a reader beings to wonder: does Justice Morgan consider this case to have been a reasonable use of court time? And does he believe the Taerks to be blameless? The answer, in both cases, is no:
How does a judge decide on a case like this? Justice Morgan figured out a way:
What he has done here is hand the win to the Taerks, but only because, in his opinion, the lawsuit (which, remember, was brought by the Morland-Joneses) had no merit to begin with. Rather than order the Morland-Joneses to cover the Taerks’ legal costs, the judge has left the two couples to cover their own legal bills, because that’s the only way he can punish both of them for wasting his time. And justice is served.
You can read Justice Morgan’s full judgment right here.