(CN) – A man snooping on his neighbor’s property exposed himself to a defamation lawsuit and liability for a host of other problems that the man suffered, the New York Appellate Division ruled.
John Ashley Jr. received a phone call informing him that Donald Strader had stolen several 25-pound boxes of nails from Ashley’s store. Ashley brought his son-in-law on an investigation of a Quonset hut on Strader’s property.
The men claimed they found at least 30 boxes of a particular type of screw sold at Ashley’s store. They called the police, and Strader was arrested and ultimately acquitted of larceny. Eight witnesses testified that they had been in the Quonset hut and had not seen large stacks of nail and screw boxes.
Strader sued Ashley for defamation and malicious prosecution, and won a judgment of $316,800. Ashley appealed the damages, but Judge Stein affirmed.
Judge Stein cited the fact that publicity from Strader’s arrest caused him to lose his job as a code enforcement officer.
Stein noted that Strader also testified that he suffered emotional and physical harm, “including feeling anxious and worried about his standing in his community, feeling sick to his stomach, difficulty sleeping and eating, and losing weight – and that he stopped socializing for fear of public scorn.”