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Vol. 8 - Issue 9
November 6, 2019

 

9 Year Old Sues Neighbor For Halloween Insult

 

 


 

 

I’ve been holding this gem from this summer until Halloween.

On Halloween night in 2017, Timmy Murphy, and three friends, knocked on Oscar Rogers’ door, in Binghamton, New York, with candy on their minds.  Mr. Rogers was known as the neighborhood grouch.  He was a get-off-my-lawn kind of guy.  The kind of person who might give loose candy corn to trick or treaters. 

As Oscar was putting one Hershey’s Kiss in each of the kids’ bags, he asked Timmy what he was dressed as.  Timmy said a Power Ranger.  Mr. Rogers replied that Timmy was the third Power Ranger he’d seen that night -- and Timmy’s costume was the worst of all three.  Timmy broke out in tears. 

At school the next day, word got out about the Power Ranger incident and Timmy was ridiculed unmercifully, both for having a bad costume and crying.  After two weeks of Timmy crying in bed every night about what had happened, Timmy’s father had enough.  He had always disliked Mr. Rogers and decided that it was time to teach the cranky old man a lesson.  That came in Rogers’ mail box in the form of a document titled Brad Murphy, as parent and guardian of Timothy Murphy, a minor v. Oscar Rogers, No. 4213/17 (Broome Cty. Sup. Ct.).
       
Brad Murphy alleged that Mr. Rogers slandered Timmy by saying that his Power Ranger costume was the worst he’d seen that night.  Mr. Rogers did not take kindly to the lawsuit.  He answered and filed a counter-claim against Timmy, alleging that Timmy had trespassed on Mr. Rogers’ property when he came to the door.

Murphy and Rogers both tendered the claims to their homeowner’s insurers.  Murphy’s insurer disclaimed coverage for the counter claim as the trespassing claim did not seek damages for “bodily injury,” “property damage” or “personal injury.”  Mr. Rogers’ insurer undertook his defense on the basis that the claim for slander triggered coverage for “personal injury.”

The parties filed motions for summary judgment.  The court dismissed Mr. Rogers’ trespassing counter claim on the basis that, as it was Halloween, and Rogers’ was giving out candy, even if just a single Hershey’s Kiss, Timmy had implied permission to be on his property.  The court dismissed Murphy’s claim on the basis that, while Rogers’ comment was insensitive and boorish, as the court noted, it did not qualify as actionable slander.  It was simply Mr. Rogers’ opinion.

The court also called Mr. Rogers’ trespassing claim sufficiently baseless to be worthy of sanctions.  However, it declined to order them, given how little effort Murphy’s counsel needed to address it.  The court added: “Ordering sanctions against Mr. Rogers and his counsel would only prolong this litigation.  The court is not inclined to do anything that could delay the ending of this insanity.”    

I got Brad Murphy on the phone on Friday to see how Timmy’s Halloween was.  Good news.  Timmy is doing fine.  And it turns out that it was a positive experience after all.  Timmy now wants to be a lawyer.  He says he wants to help other kids who are mistreated by “meanies.”  In fact, Timmy dressed as a lawyer for Halloween this year, donning a coat and tie and having people put candy in a briefcase.  Did he and his friends go to Mr. Rogers’ door? I asked.  Yes they did.  Mr. Rogers gave each of them loose candy corns.

 

That’s my time. I’m Randy Spencer. Contact Randy Spencer at

Randy.Spencer@coverageopinions.info
 
 
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