An ugly 20-year feud involving laser beams, stones being thrown and a shouting match between neighbours from an upmarket seaside hamlet north of Sydney has finally come to an end.
The dispute made it all the way to the NSW Supreme Court, where a judge on Wednesday dismissed proceedings by ruling against the couple who started the lawsuit.
In 2010, Jean Luc Clavel and Sarah Clavel sued their former Great Mackerel Beach neighbours, Kim and John Savage, for damages they say arose from the Savages’ intentional infliction of emotional distress.
But the feud began long before the case was brought before the state’s highest court.
The Clavels moved to the beachside village on the shores of Pittwater in 1994, where they lived in a two-bedroom house next door to the Savages.
However, tensions soon flared over building work and tit-for-tat verbal arguments that escalated into alleged threats and intimidation.
Justice Stephen Rothman on Wednesday found the Savages were not responsible for the psychiatric damages the Clavels claim they suffered, and ordered the Clavels pay some of the Savages’ legal costs.
“If psychiatric damages were suffered by Mr or Mrs Clavel, it was occasioned by events at Mackerel for which neither Mr or Mrs Savage can be held responsible,” he said.
The Clavels cited three specific incidents in their lawsuit, including one where Mr Savage allegedly threw stones onto the Clavels’ roof in 1999.
“Such conduct is plainly childish and discloses a significant immaturity of approach by Mr Savage,” said the judge.
But they were not the cause of Mr Clavel’s post-traumatic stress disorder, or Mrs Clavel’s depression, he said.
In another incident, Mr Savage was accused of yelling at Mr Clavel and calling him a “sick man” and suggesting he take medication.
Justice Rothman said the Clavels’ evidence did not satisfy case law that required proof of psychiatric injury in order to successfully obtain damages.
He also disagreed with their claim that a laser beam allegedly shone into their lounge room to scare them had caused depression, but conceded it had distressed the Clavels, who thought the beam was attached to a gun.