Family claiming privacy invaded by neighbors spying, repeatedly calling cops, can proceed in court, rules 8th District

A case of feuding neighbors may proceed in Cuyahoga County, the 8th District Court of Appeals ruled last week. The apparent conflict  involves the Morley family, who allegedly called the police on the Mangelluzzi family 85-90 times and made 40-50 complaints to the city building inspector during and after construction of the Mangelluzzi home. The Morleys also allegedly photographed and videotaped the Mangelluzzis in their backyard, even resorting to climbing on top of a swing set to take footage over a privacy fence purportedly constructed to prevent them from doing just that.

The Mangelluzzis filed a suit against the Morleys, claiming invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation, among other allegations. The trial court dismissed the case, finding that, based on the pleadings, there were no material factual issues involved as required under Ohio Civil Rule 12(C). The 8th District reversed on appeal, relying on a 1975 Ohio Supreme Court case that held that a complaint “should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.”

Judge Mary Boyle, writing for the court, found that the Mangelluzzis had made sufficient claims to proceed with the case. One of the defenses the Morleys had asserted was that that the Mangelluzzis could not claim invasion of privacy because backyards were not private and could be seen from the street. Judge Boyle found that the Mangelluzzi's claims that their neighbors climbed on playground equipment to spy on them belied the idea that they could be seen by anyone driving by.

Regarding claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the court found that allegations that the Morleys lodged over 100 false complaints and engaged in on-going harassment by videotaping the Mangelluzzi children met the threshold of "extreme and outrageous conduct" and could go forward. For each of the Mangelluzzi's claims, the court found that they has made sufficient statements to proceed, but stressed that the opinion in no way commented on the merits of the Morley's defenses. The case was remanded back to the trial court. For more information about the case, see this article from Court News Ohio.

Photo credit: public domain image by Leon Brooks.