First published: Sep 2023
Neighbor Against Neighbor
TAKEAWAY Noise disputes are such a common occurrence, but in this case the cooperative should consider itself lucky that it was not named in the suit. It issued a notice of termination against a shareholder who was subject to abuse, while apparently taking no action against the neighbor who the court found was engaging in uncivilized behavior and who might have held sway because of a personal relationship with an officer of the cooperative. Laying that aside, shareholders should be aware that they could be subject to nuisance and emotional distress claims when they engage in uncivil and inappropriate conduct against a neighbor. A month doesn’t go by in our practice without hearing a complaint that shareholders are being abusive to each other; the court may well have laid a pathway for an affected shareholder to properly deal with it.
MRISHAJ V. MOORE
WHAT HAPPENED The Mrishajs purchased their co-op apartment in Pelham’s garden complex Caroline Gardens in October 2021. Beginning in November 2021 they claim that their downstairs neighbor began complaining about noise. Her method of complaint, according to the Mrishajs, was to bang a broom handle on the ceiling and scream profanities at all hours of the day and night from her apartment. They claimed that this constant behavior deeply affected their young children.
The other side of the story comes from the downstairs neighbor, who denies this behavior and claims she filed numerous noise complaints with the co-op. The co-op, responding to these complaints, sent a notice of default to the Mrishajs in January 2022, followed by a notice of termination three months later.
The Mrishajs moved out and, in turn, sued the downstairs neighbor, alleging that her disruptive behavior forced them to move. They also claimed that the termination notice was issued to them because the downstairs neighbor had a personal relationship with an officer of the corporation. Their lawsuit asserted claims of, among other things, unlawful eviction, nuisance, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint.
IN COURT The court allowed some of the claims, but not all. It allowed the nuisance claim, finding that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged conduct that the defendant unreasonably interfered with their sleep and enjoyment of the apartment. If proven, it allowed the plaintiffs’ claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress to proceed, finding that the defendant’s yelling and screaming, shouting profanities, and banging on the ceiling—all with knowledge that young children lived in the apartment—could create a campaign of indecent, intolerable, and uncivilized conduct that satisfies the high bar of an intentional infliction claim.
The claims that the court dismissed included: the unlawful eviction claim because there was no allegation that the defendant physically deprived them of access to their apartment and there was no landlord-tenant relationship between the two neighbors; the harassment claim as New York does not recognize a common law cause of action for harassment; and the claim for interference with contract (as a result of having the cooperative issue a notice of termination) because the cooperative did not actually evict them, and therefore did not interfere with their leasehold.
COUNSEL Mrishaj MICHAEL STEPPER / For Faith Moore [AKA Faith Goulborne] CRAIG SAUNDERS, Munzer & Saunders / Judge Lucy Billings