Rich, Obnoxious California Transplants Messed With the Wrong Rancher

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Neighbor disputes are the worst. It’s not like when you sue someone over a contract and the next time you see them is at a deposition, mediation, or trial. You have to live next to them. Most neighbor disputes don’t end up as lawsuits, but it happens.  

I started my career at a small law firm but I left because the partners had the ethics of the Sopranos. Fortunately, I landed a fun case right away, one that was destined for trial: A neighbor dispute, with a twist.  

My client had purchased a vacant lot for a song. The lot was on a lake. The previous owner, the seller, didn’t want the lot because the adjacent neighbors told him he could have the lot, but he couldn’t develop it, because they had “gardening easements”. The seller wasn’t into lawsuits and just wanted to get rid of the headache. My guy bought it.  

The neighbors had planted vegetables on my guy’s land with the obvious intent to keep the property open for their view of the lake. I told my client the neighbors were full of it and that we would win at trial. We tried to “negotiate” but knew it was headed to trial. 

During discovery, I deposed one of the nasty owners. Slicked-back hair and designer clothes. He was a money manager with a trophy wife and he resembled a Bond villain. He told me that he had to leave by “X” time because he had a tee time. I told him I didn’t care if he had a tee time with the Pope, he wasn’t leaving until I was finished. 

He then told he was golfing with Sean Connery – he was leaving if I liked it or not. He indeed got up at “X” time and he left. No matter – I knew that him doing so would help me more than whatever he had to say. Jerks tend to overplay their hands. I let Bond villain bury himself at trial. I won. They appealed. They lost. The lot was purchased for $180,000. I looked up the property value (with the house), and as of today, it’s worth $5.3 million.  

Neighbor disputes suck, but when the good guys win it’s pretty sweet. A few days ago, I read a story about a neighbor dispute that turned out to have a happy ending. A very happy ending.  

There was a narrow strip of land that California transplants had bought. It was a vacant lot where they planned to build a home. A few months after it closed, the next-door neighbor, a rancher, got a notice. The transplants informed him that they would sue him if he didn’t move his fence. The fence encroached on the new owners’ property by 3 to 6 inches. 

The rancher tried to reason with the new owners to no avail. He gave the new owners three extremely reasonable options. All were rejected. So the rancher told his neighbors – “sue me.” They won, but the rancher knew that would be the result. He just wanted them to spend more money. After the judgment and order to move the fence, the rancher moved the fence. Shortly thereafter, he constructed a hog pen up against the fence near the new neighbors’ new home. He verified with the county that the pen was legal. The property was zoned “Ag.” He fed his new oinkers table scraps. 

I didn’t know, but apparently feeding hogs people food makes their poop smell like death. The smell didn’t affect the rancher’s family. His home was hundreds of yards away, but the piggies were right up against the new owners’ property line.   

Winter rolled around and the smell was reduced. The jerk neighbors couldn’t take the smell. They put up a “for sale” sign. When the property was sold, the rancher deconstructed the pen, cleaned up the area, and sold the hogs. His “beef” wasn’t with the people who would move in next.  

Being a jerk rarely works and I imagine it works even less against farmers and ranchers, particularly when the jerks have more money than brains.   

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