Dad faces damages bill after 'growling' as neighbours took son's ball
Furious father faces hefty damages bill for ‘baring his teeth and growling’ after high-flying neighbours refused to give his eight-year-old son’s ball back
- Neighbours’ row ends with father dragged in court and left facing a damages bill
- Chaim Adler burst into garden of Warren Bergson and Edel McAndrew-Bergson
- The Bergsons had confiscated his son’s Mr Adler’s son’s football due to the noise
- Fire alarm company boss Mr Adler, 34, sued by the Bergsons for harassment
A furious father faces a hefty damages and legal bill after being dragged into court for ‘baring his teeth and growling’ at a high-flying couple who refused to give his son’s ball back when it went over their fence amid a neighbours’ row.
Chaim Adler burst into the garden of his parents’ next-door neighbours, lawyer Warren Bergson and his psychologist wife Dr Edel McAndrew-Bergson, after they confiscated his son’s football in May 2018.
The ‘mature’ couple were frustrated at the noise of the ball being repeatedly ‘smashed’ against their fence in Golders Green, north London, a court heard.
Mr Bergson took the ball after it went over into their garden in May 2018 in order to get some peace, the court was told.
Dr Edel McAndrew-Bergson (left) and Esther and Zavy Adler and their son Chaim outside Mayor and City County Court
But Mr Adler burst into the couple’s garden, angry because his son had been reduced to tears.
He ranted at and threatened Mr Bergson, dancing around on one foot and using ‘aggressive body language,’ which caused him and his wife to fear an attack.
That included banging on the Bergsons’ door and pressing his face against their window while ‘baring his teeth and growling’ at them.
Now, after being sued by the Bergsons for harassment, fire alarm company boss Mr Adler, 34, faces having to pay damages and a potentially huge lawyers’ bill.
At Mayors and City Court, Judge Stephen Hellman KC found that, although Mr Bergson should not have confiscated the ball, Chaim Adler had overreacted and ‘harassed’ the couple.
The angry dad’s parents, Zavy, 72, and Esther Adler, 68, – who own the large £1m-plus property next door to the Bergsons’ then flat – also face having to make payouts following the dispute.
Ruling, the judge said the court row had been an ‘unhappy case about a neighbours’ dispute that got out of hand’ after the Bergsons moved in next door to Mr Adler’s parents in 2017.
Zavy and Esther Adler had lived in their home for 40 years, bringing up their children there, the court heard – pictured Esther and Zavy Adler and their son Chaim
Zavy and Esther Adler had lived in their home for 40 years, bringing up their children there, the court heard.
But trouble brewed after Mr Bergson and Dr McAndrew-Bergson, 56, moved to London and rented a small one-bedroom garden flat next door.
The first clash took place in August 2017 when Dr McAndrew-Bergson was hanging out clothes and water suddenly began spilling into the garden from next door.
Her husband – a motoring law specialist – went to investigate and quickly realised that the flood had been caused by water overflowing from the Adler grandchildren’s paddling pool.
In their evidence, the couple said Mr Bergson had remonstrated with the neighbours, but that Zavy Adler had flown into a rage, rushing at him and following him back to his garden.
The elder Mr Adler had been ‘ranting and raving’ and ‘dancing around in a frenzy,’ abusing psychologist Dr McAndrew-Bergson with a particularly offensive Yiddish term.
Police were called and, although Mr Bergson and Zavy Adler had later shaken hands, the Bergsons claimed that the incident was the start of a ‘campaign of harassment.’
They complained about being subjected to the constant noise of building work, which also blocked the pathway to their flat, and regular noisy family get-togethers next door.
A football was ‘crashed’ repeatedly against the fence separating the gardens every weekend as a means of ‘intimidating’ them, and they had resorted to taking British Library memberships so they had somewhere peaceful to go, they said.
The Bergsons claimed that the alleged campaign against them culminated in two confrontations with Chaim Adler over a long weekend in May 2018.
The Adler children’s football was at the centre of the row, with the Bergsons becoming exasperated at the constant noise of it being kicked against the fence.
Pushed to the end of their patience, Dr McAndrew-Bergson had grabbed it when it came into her garden and thrown it over another neighbour’s fence.
Mr Bergson then decided to confiscate it, taking it into his flat on another occasion over the same weekend.
They said the row over the football resulted in Chaim Adler becoming enraged and twice entering their garden, once with a ‘small army’ of Adler family members, who the Bergsons claimed had decided to use them as their ‘evening entertainment.’
The first clash took place in August 2017 when Dr McAndrew-Bergson was hanging out clothes and water suddenly began spilling into the garden from next door
On the first occasion, he was ‘snarling’ and mocking Mr Bergson, but on the second had attempted to push his way into their flat while demanding the ball back ‘aggressively,’ they claimed.
Dr McAndrew-Bergson said they had shut the door on him, but Chaim Adler was incensed, banging on the door, pressing his face against the window, ‘baring his teeth and growling’ at them.
In what the judge called ‘haunting’ evidence, she said her husband had also been surrounded during the weekend, with Chaim Adler mocking him, shouting ‘here here’ and repeatedly kicking his right leg in the air.
At one point, Esther Adler had also gone to see the Bergsons and told them they had no right to live next door and, if they didn’t like noise, they should leave, she said.
The flat was situated in the garden of the house next door to the Adlers, which was owned by an extended Adler family member who had rented it to the Bergsons.
In the witness box, Chaim Adler denied doing anything wrong, saying that he was only a dad protecting his son, who had been shouted at and reduced to tears when he asked for his ball back.
He said he had gone and had a ‘back and forth’ with Mr Bergson in the doorway of his flat, but Mr Bergson had shut the door and did not return the ball.
Judge Hellman heard the case in March this year, but only delivered judgment last week, following a delay caused by the death of Mr Bergson, who had been unwell and did not attend the trial.
Giving judgment, the judge said trouble between the neighbours was always a risk, because they were such different people with different interests in life.
‘The Adlers enjoyed family gatherings at weekends and religious holidays – the Bergsons were a mature couple who enjoyed peace and quiet,’ he said.
‘Their living next door to each other was always going to be a potential source of tension.’
He said everyone involved seemed to have been badly affected by the case, noting Dr McAndrew-Bergson’s ‘distress’ at what happened, Esther Adler’s ‘bitterness’ and Chaim Adler’s ‘anger.’
He said there was truth to both sides’ account of the paddling pool incident, that Mr Bergson had ‘overreacted’ in shouting at and scaring the children, while Zavy Adler had also overreacted when he followed him next door.
The Bergsons’ description of Zavy Adler’s behaviour was mostly accurate, he found, but the incident was a ‘one-off’ and so it couldn’t be considered to have been harassment, he found.
Noisy activity in the Adlers’ garden on weekends was also perfectly normal and not part of a ‘campaign of harassment,’ since it was a family home.
And although the football might have been kicked loudly and often against the fence, there was no evidence that the Adlers had been told the Bergsons were irritated by it, he found.
However, he found that the claims against Chaim Adler following the incidents over the weekend in May 2018 were well-founded and that he had harassed them and trespassed on their property.
‘He was angry because they had twice reduced his eight-year-old son to tears,’ he said.
‘The depth of his anger came across very clearly when he was giving evidence.’
But, although Mr Bergson should have given the ball back when requested and Dr McAndrew-Bergson should not have thrown it over the other neighbour’s fence, his response was not justified, he continued.
Mr Adler was angry because his son had been reduced to tears during the football incident
‘I am satisfied that Chaim Adler pursued a course of conduct which, although targeted at Mr Bergson, amounted to harassment of both claimants, which he knew or ought to have known amounted to harassment,’ he said.
‘It was likely to and did cause alarm and distress.
‘I accept he was angry because they had upset his son, but he has not shown me that his course of conduct was reasonable and I am satisfied that it was not.’
He said Mr Adler had trespassed on the Bergsons’ property and, using ‘aggressive body language,’ caused them to fear an attack.
The judge also found that items deposited on the path leading to the garden flat by builders working on Mr and Mrs Adler’s home amounted to an interference with the Bergsons’ right of way, since they must have known of the state of the path.
The judge adjourned the case until a later date, when he will decide what Dr McAndrew-Bergson should get in damages from Mr and Mrs Adler for the interference and from their son for the harassment and trespass.
He will also then decide who will have to pay the lawyers’ bills for the case, which are likely to be substantial, having taken up three days in court, with another hearing still to come.
However, he urged the parties to try to agree the level of damages and who pays the costs of the case without returning to court.
‘It is sad that matters have got this far,’ he said.
‘It may be that – one second to midnight – the parties can resolve the remaining matters between them.
‘I strongly encourage everyone to attempt to do that.’
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