In Stinson v. Mensel, No. M2016-00624-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 12, 2017), a neighborly dispute about chickens turned into a suit and counter-suit for nuisance, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and injunctive relief.
Plaintiffs owned land on which several neighbors had an easement for access to their properties. Defendants, two couples who used the easement to get to their homes, alleged that they had never met plaintiffs until the facts surrounding this case began. In 2008, plaintiff husband “came to believe that [one of defendant couples] had stolen some of his chickens that wandered over” to defendants’ property. Plaintiffs left a note in defendants’ mailbox accusing them of stealing the chickens, and plaintiffs subsequently began harassing defendants. Plaintiffs would put brush and fence posts on the easement, blocking passage on the easement. Plaintiffs dug a ditch on the easement which subsequently caused excessive erosion. Plaintiffs screamed at defendants, followed one defendant with a rock, erected a sign telling one couple to stay off plaintiffs’ side of the easement, and prevented defendants from performing maintenance on the easement. Ultimately, plaintiffs filed this suit, claiming that defendants “had caused the easement to be graded and bulldozed, encroached onto [plaintiffs’] property, and made verbal threats and used intimidation” against plaintiffs.
Defendants filed a counter-complaint, and the trial court ultimately dismissed all of plaintiffs’ claims and found that plaintiffs were liable to defendants for nuisance, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Further, the trial court “enjoined [plaintiffs] from forever using, driving on, damaging, or interfering with [the easement], or the maintenance of the same.” The Court of Appeals affirmed the nuisance finding, but reversed on the invasion of privacy and emotional distress claims, and it modified the injunction against plaintiffs.