Neighborhood Feud Ends In $800,000 Suit

November 02, 1990|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

It's time to play Family Feud.

Meet the Schnaubelts, Kenneth and Ann. They have filed suit against their former neighbors, charging them with endlessly raising a noisy ruckus and throwing various solids and liquids at their cars, their house and their dog.

They're seeking $800,000 in damages.

Now meet the McLains, Richard and Deborah. As defendants in the suit, they deny the charges and say Kenneth Schnaubelt is driving them nuts. The Edgewater couple is glad the Schnaubelts moved to Virginia a year ago; now they wish the Schnaubelts would leave them alone.

Said Richard McLain: "This suit has just about put me to suicide."

Now, let's go to our first category, "damages the Schnaubelts say they have sustained because of the McLains' acts." The responses are: auto window smashed; tires punctured; windows in house shot out; swimming pool liner punctured; motor oil thrown in dog yard; and liquid sprayed on dog in dog yard.

And the top response, according to the survey: Eggs, gravel, mud, boards, oil, paint, snowballs, rocks and bricks hurled against car, truck, house and garage.

Those charges, springing from a feud that ran from October 1987 to July 1989, are outlined in the suit, filed Tuesday in county Circuit Court.

Until last year, the Schnaubelts lived in the 3600 block 8th Avenue in the Selby on the Bay community; the McLains live nearby in the 800 block Hillside Road.

McLain, a 44-year-old auto body worker, and Gregory P. Robinson, attorney for the Schnaubelts, agree the differences between the family arose over off-road motor bikes ridden by McLain's teen-age boys. That's about all the two sides agree on.

The Schnaubelts say their former neighbors continually rode unmuffled dirt bikes around the perimeter of their property at all hours of the day and night. Furthermore, the suit charges the McLains threatened the Schnaubelts, made an extensive series of harassing phone calls at all hours, threw rocks, paint and other objects at their cars, house and animals, shot at their house and threatened to poison their dog.

The disruption was so bad, according to the suit, Kenneth Schnaubelt had to close down his landscaping business and the couple had to move. The suit says they had to undergo medical treatment because of the harassment.

The couple, charging intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and creating a nuisance, is asking for $400,000 in actual damages and another $400,000 in punitive damages.

Richard McLain says the Schnaubelts have things backward. He says it's they who make for lousy neighbors.

He tells a story of a family with four teen-age boys who moved to Hillside Road for its larger house -- and quickly got on Kenneth Schnaubelt's bad side.

McLain said his sons irritated his neighbor by creating a trail for their dirt bikes in a nearby wooded area. McLain says Schnaubelt did not own the woods. But he did block the trail, forcing an unlicensed McLain boy to get to the woods on a road, where a police officer gave him a $250 ticket. And Kenneth Schnaubelt threatened the children, McLain said.

With that, it seems, war broke out.

According to McLain, his neighbor countered the noise with light; he said Schnaubelt aggravated him and his family by continually shining flashlights at them and aiming 10 spotlights and a video camera at his house.

"My yard was lit up like a concentration camp," McLain said. "It looked like a football field, all lit up."

McLain said his neighbor also killed two of his pet rabbits. And he says his wife was bitten after Schnaubelt "sicced" his German shepherd on her.

The feud has already produced criminal charges against McLain, who went to District Court in Annapolis earlier this year to answer a harassment charge. Blaming bad legal advice, McLain said he agreed to a deal wherein he would get probation before judgment -- and, to his surprise, a $500 fine, 40 hours of community service picking up trash at a landfill and an angry lecture from the judge.

McLain recalled his family's high hopes when they moved into the larger house four years ago. Reflecting on the family feud yesterday, McLain said, "Every day it was a new adventure.

"I've never enjoyed the house."

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