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By: Wayne S. Melnick
As both an attorney and a drummer, this one caught my attention. Following a bench trial in Traetto v. Palazzo, a New Jersey judge recently ruled that a teenage drummer’s occasional afternoon practice sessions in his family’s garage was not a private nuisance.
Originally, the judge dismissed the complaint (which was filed against the drummer’s homeowner parents), but an appellate court ruled there were disputed issues of fact that required a trial. Following remand and a bench trial, the court ruled in favor of the drummer’s parents.
The plaintiff, a computer programmer who worked from her home and was on-call for 24 hours per day, filed the law suit alleging the drumming went on at all hours of the day and night interrupting her ability to do her job and sleep. She claimed the nature of her job required her to work at night so she would sometimes try to sleep during the day. In their responsive pleadings, the drummer’s parents said their son played only between the hours of 4pm and 7pm and that the town’s health administrator had determined there was no noise ordinance violation.
In ruling in favor of the drummer’s parents, the trial court followed the law discussed by the appellate court, finding the plaintiff had failed to show “injury to the health or comfort of ordinary people to an unreasonable extent.” Most importantly, the court determined that “”[O]ne cannot expect absolute silence when living in a densely populated area.” Citing a prior case, the trial court noted, “[t]he interruption of normal conversation, the drowning out of TV sound, an occasional disturbance during sleeping hours and like complaints may all fall within the area of mere annoyance.… The court concludes that the unusual work pattern of the plaintiff, working at night versus the playing of an instrument by a 17-year-old young man during the day, does not lead to the granting of relief.”
Once again, common sense prevails. It just goes to show that the old adage is true, and much like law, the way to get better playing drums is to practice (but still be considerate of your neighbors)!