Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- April 29-May 26, 2007

This page includes posts from April 29-May 26, 2007 in the usual reverse order.

Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

May 24, 2007
Not exactly graceful in defeat

A while ago I wrote a story about a fight in Chancery Court between the Dewey Beach Lions Club and some folks who owned properties lying just east of a playground lot owned by the club.

The lawsuit involved a tiny alleyway between the parcels. Because of the summer rental crowds using these properties, the owners argued that they had a right to use a portion of the club property for an even wider path.

Master Sam Glasscock disagreed:

When the lots currently belonging to the Owners were created many years ago, they included the use of a 15' easement along their western boundaries to allow access from the public street. As the years have passed and what were originally simple cottages were transformed into substantial beach homes, the Owners and, particularly, their summertime renters and invitees, found it convenient to park in the easement. Some of the properties were rented to groups for the summer, and these tenants were forced to park their multiple vehicles in areas which included the easement, if they were to park them on the properties at all. At the same time, just to the west of the easement, the Strip was open to the public as a right-of-way for access to the Lions Club playground. It was, therefore, natural for the Owners and their guests and renters to avoid the easement, clogged with parked cars, and instead drive to the properties over the Strip. Because of the public license to use this area, however, the Owners’ use was not hostile to the rights of the possessor of the property, and therefore[e] no prescriptive rights in the Owners’ favor were established.

As I noted at the time, this decision affirms the point that "your parking problem is not your neighbor’s responsibility."

According to a news story tonight, however, it appears that one of these neighbors was not exactly graceful in defeat.

A Dewey Beach woman and her handyman have been charged with poisoning a sycamore tree, located on a nearby playground, that blocked her view of Rehoboth Bay....

Pearl Golden, 57, was arrested May 18 and charged with criminal mischief, second-degree conspiracy and criminal solicitation, all felonies, Dewey Beach police said. Her handyman, Daniel Furr, 22, of Dover, turned himself in two days later on charges of criminal mischief and second-degree conspiracy.

... According to court records, Golden told a witness in late April that she was aggravated with the Lions Club for putting up a fence between its McKinley Street playground and her house.

She had encountered problems with the club in the past, she said, and decided to have her handyman kill a tree on the club’s playground so she could have a better view of the bay, police wrote in court records.

The tree's now dead, and according to one worker the tree will cost at least $3,000 to be replaced.

I hope the new tree grows quickly, thickly, and high.

May 17, 2007
Down memory Fairlane

Ann Althouse has been showing some great photos she took during a recent show of restored automobiles in Madison, Wisconsin.

The pictures she showed today, of a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500, took me way back down the memory hole.

The one she saw was a convertible, but our 1964 Galaxie 500 was a hardtop.

It was also fast.

I set a personal speed record in that car of 104 miles per hour on a back country road in New Castle County, a very long time ago.

And yes, it was a remarkably stupid thing to do at the time, when I was an immortal teenager. If I tried the same stunt now, on the same now-busy road, it would be completely suicidal.

The car was really fast, though.

May 14, 2007

He was his own worst witness

The Delaware lawyers I know who practice personal injury law tell me that the juries they deal with are pretty conservative when it comes to awarding damages.

There’s the occasional exception, but those are highly unusual cases, often with horrendous facts.

In the routine case, however, Delaware juries tend to be a bit tight-fisted. Nonetheless, sometimes the person seeking the money simply doesn’t do himself any favors, in the impression he creates for his peers who are sitting in judgment.

This happened again recently, in a lawsuit brought after a minor automobile accident. The plaintiff was sitting in his parked car when the defendant driver struck his car.

In the resulting litigation, the defendant admitted liability, and also admitted that the plaintiff was injured by the accident. The evidence included records showing $9,000 in medical expenses.

The jury awarded $100.

The plaintiff sought the trial judge’s order to add more dollars to the jury verdict or a new trial. After the trial court summarily denied the motion, the plaintiff appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court.

The panel showed the usual deference to the jury's collective wisdom, and also pointed out a few additional damaging facts:

At trial, [the plaintiff] presented evidence that he had seen several doctors following the accident. The doctors’ notes revealed inconsistencies in [his] description of the accident and his alleged injuries. Other than a single instance of objective evidence of muscle spasm, the doctors’ diagnoses were based upon [the plaintiff’s] subjective reporting of his symptoms. [He] did not make a good appearance before the jury. His behavior on the witness stand was erratic and his testimony was inconsistent.

He had to be convinced to sit down to testify. [His] credibility was seriously compromised when he tearfully testified that a doctor told him he might become paralyzed and when it came to light that he had made an insurance claim for lost wages as a result of the accident when he had not worked for ten years. Although [he] testified that he was limited in his everyday activities, in the courtroom he appeared to have full mobility.

In an effort to highlight just how bad a witness the plaintiff was for himself, the appellate panel added a little more salt into his self-inflicted wounds:

During deliberations, the jury sent a note to the judge asking if they could award only one dollar to the plaintiff. Because liability had been conceded and the evidence was that [the plaintiff] had sustained an injury in the accident, the Superior Court judge properly instructed the jury that some level of damages had to be awarded [citation omitted].


Based on this sorry record, the Supreme Court had little difficulty with affirming the jury verdict below, ruling that there was no abuse of discretion in deciding that this plaintiff did not deserve a chance at a better verdict than the one he apparently earned for himself.

It’s worth keeping in mind, therefore, that when you hear about juries making low-ball awards, sometimes there’s a very good reason for it.

May 14, 2007
Back in blogging action

So I took a month off from blogging.

It feels like I needed the break.

On the other hand, it's not like I was just sitting around twiddling my thumbs and actively avoiding the computer keyboard and the apparently now-defunct FrontPage software used to create this site.

My regular work's been pretty busy lately, to judge from the newspapers, but that's not something to discuss here.

However, while gone from here I also had a good time during the annual spring golf trip to the Myrtle Beach area. There'll be a golf column about it soon enough, but in the meantime, here are some pictures:

This is the par-4 4th hole at River Hills, a 385-yarder with a little water in front.

This was the view from our 8-bedroom house on the ocean block of Cherry Grove Beach, looking southwest at a nearby creek that fed into the Intercoastal Waterway.

By the way, when real estate folks tell you that a place features ocean views, they sometimes mean this.

The par-3 third hole at Lion's Paw features an oyster shell-covered bank in front of the green.

Golf balls can land on these shells, and the balls will not bounce onto the green.

Imagine that.


Contact Information:

Fritz Schranck
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE  19969

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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2007