Homeowner sues NJ teen for lawnmower repair shop in parents’ house
WESTWOOD — A Bergen County homeowner is suing two of his neighbors, including a young entrepreneur who began earning money by repairing lawn equipment at the age of 17.
Joseph Oettinger Jr. said the business at the Iwaskiw family home is a "nuisance" that "unreasonably interfered with the quiet enjoyment" of his property.
Alexander Iwaskiw began his business in 2015. He repaired lawnmowers, weed whackers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, chainsaws, small motorcycles and quad bikes. He also sold parts.
Oettinger spent two years complaining to police about the "unreasonable" noise, smoke and fumes, which forced him to keep his windows shut. He also complained about the added traffic to the residential neighborhood.
In 2017, he filed a lawsuit against the Iwaskiw family and their neighbors, the Charron family, for "aiding and abetting" the nuisance by storing the teen's equipment and accepting drop-offs.
A Superior Court judge initially dismissed the case, explaining that Oettinger had not shown how the nuisance had caused him personal injury.
But a panel of appellate judges this month overturned that decision, saying that Oettinger does not have to show any personal injury to prove a nuisance.
The Iwaskiw family argued that the repairs were a hobby. But the appellate decision calls that claim "a red herring" because "an unduly noisy hobby may be a nuisance."
The appellate decision explains that an "unreasonable disturbance" must rise above a "mere annoyance."
“An actual injury to one's health is not required to establish that fumes, smoke, or odor constitute a nuisance," the judges say.
Whether the teen's business rose to that level should be decided at trial, the judges said.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.