By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In what certainly will be a good civics lesson taught to high school teenagers to prepare them for the world ahead, Seattle resident Denise Horton’s neighbor was awarded a half million dollars in a default judgment in a dispute over her dog’s barking. Denise failed to report to trial, claiming it was a “bunk.”
The bunk caught up to her after the sheriff’s office arrived to serve her with a writ of execution for her house.
The action stemmed from a dispute between Denise and her immediate neighbor Woodrow Thompson who stated in his thirty six page complaint that her dog Cawper barked loudly enough the sound could be measured at 128 decibels through double-paned windows. For reference, 128 decibels is just under the noise level for the takeoff of a military jet. Woodrow claimed Cawper engaged in “raucously, wildly bellowing, howling and explosively barking” and that he is an outrage, with intentional infliction of emotional distress — and that his barking caused “profound emotional distress.”
Denise said in an interview: “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.”
After Denise not responding to process, the Superior Court awarded Woodrow the default judgment. She has since retained counsel in an attempt to have the judgment reversed which despite what some believe to be a frivolous case filed by Woodrow this will prove to be a difficult endeavor especially considering how reluctant state courts are to reverse these actions.
Though the original judge declined to reverse his ruling, a subsequent hearing is scheduled.
By Darren Smith
Source: KOMO News
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.
61 thoughts on “$500,000 Default Judgment Issued Against Defendant Over Barking Dog”
My wife and I both grew up on farms w/dogs. We love dogs/animals, for the most part but resent dog owners (next door) who let their pack of yipping canines out, to do their business, at midnight on to 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning. The owners have anywhere from 4 to 7 dogs at a time. When one of the dogs died from old age, that couple went to a shelter and adopted another within a few days, even carrying the new mutt in the house, wrapped in a blanket, in the middle of the summer, while in a crouching position (like she was carrying a small TV out of Wal-Mart’s back door.) We’ve lived in this house for 24 yrs. They’ve lived next door for 18 yrs. This crap has been going on all that time. Their dogs bark at stray cats in the alley, leaves falling from trees, snow flakes falling from the sky. We can’t grill outdoors or even water our flowers w/out all their dogs going ballistic, only a couple of feet away (my wife had, previously, used the time she spent gardening as a means of therapy, to wind down after work.) I heard the gal tell her husband, “They never shut off that noisy air conditioner”, and told my wife, “we’d love to shut it off, we want cheaper utility bills, but it would require opening windows to cool the house. So, hello…you know what that means. We’d have our neighbors 7 little furry ‘alarms’, screaming right in our ears.” The folks on this site have made many good arguments, both ways. But may I remind everyone that our own military here in the U.S. uses sleep deprivation as a means of torture to force “war hardened” combatants to give up military secrets….and it works! So let me ask the readers, “if the neighbors dogs keep someone awake half the night, and that person has to drive to a doctors appointment the next day (let’s say a 40 mile trip), but because they are so tired, they fall asleep at the wheel, cross the centerline and hit another car or, God forbid, a school bus, who should, ultimately, be held responsible for the deaths or damage that accident causes?” You’re damn right! The owners of the animals that caused the lack of sleep should pay! I would agree the amount of $500,000 seems high but I ask you, “what is the life of a law abiding citizen and his sanity worth?” I submit to you that no dollar amount can be put on the life of an individual. Even if it isn’t a question of life and death, it still brings up the question of ‘undo stress’ that has been proven to have overwhelming health consequences. Stress has been linked to headaches, heart attacks, smoking, drinking, drug use, domestic violence, suicide and the list goes on and on. If you think that your precious little Bruno’s ‘right to bark’ supersedes my right to rest and relax after a hard days work, you may deserve a ‘fine from hell.’ If a family buys a home next to an airport, race track or football stadium and its louder than you like, that would be your fault, you may need to find a different place to live. But if someone moves in next door and their kids are in a rock band that practices in your neighbors garage, or they have pets that make lots of noise, etc., nobody that was already there should have to start looking for a different dwelling just so they can escape these rude, nit wits that believe if they’ve paid $850 for their registered ‘whatever’ and he wants to bark, then he gets to. That makes about as much sense as a dad defending his child for using his new BB gun to shoot the windows from your garage by saying, “I paid a lot of money for that gun. You are depriving my kid of his fundamental right to use that gift.” To which I say, “we are thankful you didn’t buy him a tank for his birthday but we’d be all for it if he used it on you first!”
I know this is a lawyer blog but the “justice system” has become an absurdity. 1/2 a million for a barking dog? I’ll sit here and wait for some fool that she defaulted and justice was done. If we are going to simply be automatons and execute the legal code the same as a computer executes programming code, we might as well let the machines take over.
Additional information: In most “measurement” case issues I have been involved with dealt with at least an accuracy of 1/10th of 1% +/- …and that has been made more complex in the fully digital age, with “degrees or uncertainty” applied on each test. At times the issue is over 1/100th of 1% if laboratory measurements are involved. A commercial decibel meter that Joe Sixpack might have can not approach even the lessor accuracy level. So this claim stinks from my perspective, but the failure to respond to a summons, however ever noisy the dog(s) might have been, caused the monetary damages…however egregious.
Worst case I had to deal with was over a gas station that had set their pumps to display gallons while dispensing liters, activated by a switch when a customer did not call for a fill up…e.g., how’d they know what they got? Today gas pumps dispense in one measurement or the other with no choice by the operator. In the case where the above violation occurred an unarmed officer was murdered by bludgeoning with a pipe. It was the straw that broke the back of the dual measurement capability controlled by an owner…now the measurement is set by the state under seal.
Why did I know that would be the last comment – lolololol lmao what a litmus test. Freaking dog barking and suit for 500 thousand dollars. I would have thrown it away and thought it was a joke too because I have 3 yappy pappies lololol 😉
Paul C… …that decibel level issue is one she could have raised if she’d responded to the summons, with an attorney ideally, of on her own. I am little surprised, based only on what I read here, that the judge didn’t raise the question himself and at least take the claim under advisement to research the issue. As I’ve said earlier, I am very familiar with instrumentation and every judge I’ve been before on those cases always questioned the validity of the measurements claimed.
I’m late to this party, but I’m glad you pointed out the key issue. Seems to me that it will be difficult to set aside the default for failure to answer the complaint based on what we all know at the present time. Instinctively, it seems to me that it should be easier to get the court to reconsider the amount of damages. And of course the amount of damages is the money issue. But I’m not familiar with Washington law.
Don de Drain – this is not my area of expertise, but could the court consider the filing fraudulent since the decibel level for the dog is unreachable by a single dog or even a group of dogs.
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