Lawsuit of the week: “Size does matter”

Generally, I don’t expect the New York Times to provide me with lawsuit laughter but the other day they did, in “Where Hepburn Lived, Last Act in Legal Drama Over Posts’ Height,” by Elizabeth A. Harris.

Let’s visit Fenwick, Connecticut, a small town on the Connecticut River, where it runs into the Sound. As the Times says, “there is a glamorous estate with a $30 million price tag…and a famous former owner: Katherine Hepburn.”

So what could be a lawsuit here? Well, the current owner, Frank Sciame (whose name will be familiar to any of us New Yorkers who pause to look at the who’s-building-it signs on New York City property developments), has granite posts marking his driveway. And what’s the problem? Sciame “built them five feet high, and the borough’s Historic District Commission wanted the posts to be no more than four feet tall.”

“The commission sued, and so began an expensive staring contest.”

Here’s the sentence that endeared this article to me: “‘Apparently in certain neighborhoods, as in life, size does matter,” a Connecticut Superior Court judge wrote last year. ‘This is a dispute about 12 inches and how it is measured.'”

Now, you’d think a big New York City developer guy would know something about bowing to such historic/landmark rulings. (You’d also think he’d be carrying around one of those big contractor tape measures and would have measured before installing the posts.)

Well, “After he lost an earlier round in court, Mr. Sciame complied with the commission’s request, though perhaps not in the way it imagined he would. Rather than sink the posts one foot deeper into the ground, he sawed off their tops.”

The whole article is a lot of fun to read and has a nice pic of Hepburn and another pic of the pretty ugly truncated posts. You’ll be ever so glad you’re not rich enough to get into this kind of legal situation.

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