Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Friends and Neighbours

They lived next door to one another in Pickering, Ontario. There is the Fitzpatrick family and there is the Squires family. Anna Squires is now in her 80s and she was a friend of Mr. Fitzpatrick's mother Mary. When Mary died in 2006, David Fitzpatrick stayed in the Squires house for emotional support, mourning the death of his mother. After the funeral had taken place and Mr. Fitzpatrick moved back to his own house next door, he forgot to return photographs that the Squire had loaned to him.

Tyler Anderson/National Post
Tyler Anderson/National Post    David Fitzpatrick and Bill and Ann Squire argued over this narrow strip of land between their houses.
A lot of people, particularly the elderly, love their photographs. Somehow the once-friendly neighbours began to fall out. And what could possibly be worse than living right next door to people you once had a fairly close emotional relationship with, that dissolved through circumstances and became uncomfortably nasty? And nasty is just what ensued out of the old friendly neighbourliness.

Sometimes the most difficult disagreements to solve between people have their genesis in minor resentments, petty affairs that shouldn't really drive people apart.  William Squires was 67, and shared a lawn with Mr. Fitzgerald. A dispute began over that lawn, when Mr. Squires criticized Mr. Fitzgerald for mowing the grass too short in the hot summer, causing the grass to scorch. And then there were disputes over a fence.

Matters became so heated between the residents of the two side-by-side houses that Mr. Squires had security cameras installed. The cameras filmed a confrontation between Mr. Fitzpatrick and a contractor hired to dig holes for the fence. That tape was later lost by police. One day as Mr. Squires left his tidy bungalow he "was shocked to discover that someone had placed a large dead coyote on the hood of his pickup truck. Blood was dripping from its mouth", according to a judge's statement.

"By the end of the day, the police had arrested and taken into custody the Squires' thirty-nine year-old next-door neighbour, David Fitzpatrick, and charged him with criminal harassment", continued the judge's ruling. As can be seen by the dated age disparities, these disagreements and bad feelings between the neighbours took place over a rather prolonged period of living side-by-side in mutual aggravation.

The earlier charge never had its day in court, a trial hadn't taken take place partially because of the lost video as evidence and because someone, later identified as Mr. Fitzpatrick, had disabled the camera under cover of darkness, before he planned to surprise his neighbour with the coyote on his vehicle. With no criminal charges pending, Mr. Fitzpatrick maintained the conflict momentum.

He sued for malicious prosecution, obtained a certificate of pending litigation on the Squires' new home, expanding the lawsuit to include his estranged sister Shelly Orwin. He had fought over his mother's inheritance with his sister Shelly. And he accused all three whom he planned to sue with concocting a conspiracy against him. The Squires responded by counterclaiming for intentional infliction of mental distress against them on the part of Mr. Fitzgerald.

At the 2012 trial, Mr. Fitzpatrick claimed malicious prosecution, and he lost his claim. The judge found that discovering a dead coyote on your truck and your security camera tampered with represented more than ample reason to call police ... and it was the police who had pursued the charges against Mr. Fitzpatrick.

Mr. Squires had testified that the incident appeared to them dreadfully intimidating, as though it represented a death threat, straight out of a mafia movie. The judge found for Mr. and Mrs. Squires in his ruling, expressing the hope that they could "move on with their lives, free from harassment and worry". 

Mr. Fitzpatrick was ordered to pay damages of over $150,000 to the Squires, to pay the legal costs as well in the sum of $166,000 for the Squires and $68,000 for Ms. Orwin, bringing the total to $400,000. Not to mention the expense he had himself incurred, with his own hefty legal fees.

Bill and Ann Squires outside their Whitby home. The Squires sold their Pickering house after former neighbour David Fitzpatrick, a hunter, dumped a coyote carcass on the hood of their pick-up truck.
Tyler Anderson/National Post    Bill and Ann Squires outside their Whitby home. The Squires sold their Pickering house after former neighbour David Fitzpatrick, a hunter, dumped a coyote carcass on the hood of their pick-up truck.
Needless to say, oil cannot be squeezed out of an empty vessel. Or, as Mr. Squires said while hoping to enjoy the benefits of the latest ruling in his favour through publicity "As it will probably be all that I get out of this whole process. The courts have no power to make someone pay."

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