Middletown autism group gets green light for harassment lawsuit
Last month, we told you of the lawsuit filed by a center for people with autism against neighbors they allege harassed them, including dumping manure on their property. This week an appellate panel ruled that the lawsuit can proceed.
A group called OASIS (Ongoing Autistic Success in Society) opened a center for autistic adults who had aged out of juvenile programs but were not yet ready (if they ever would be). The transition program helps them learn independent living skills and allows them to work on a farm. The center bought land in Middletown’s Navesink River Road area and they did not get a warm welcome from their neighbors.
As reported by the Asbury Park Press, the neighbors originally tried to bribe the seller of the land to withdraw the purchase agreement. That failed, so the neighbors started a series of harassing actions including scrawling menacing graffiti, erecting a fence that blocked OASIS from their driveway, setting an aggressive goat on the property, and dumping hundreds of pounds of horse manure on the property, according to court papers.
The lawsuit was originally dismissed by a Superior Court judge, ruling that OASIS did not have proper standing under the state’s Law Against Discrimination. The three member appellate court reversed the decision, saying that while OASIS itself is not a part of a protected class, its residents were. The defendants, Peter and Susan Wade, Robert and Lauren Phillips, and Navesink Investments, LLC, can still appeal to the State Supreme Court. OASIS is seeking unknown compensatory and punitive damages plus attorney fees.
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