Huffington Post CLARENCE, N.Y. — Paul Marinaccio Sr. traces his fear of frogs to a childhood incident in Italy when a man holding bullfrogs chased him away after he’d wandered from the vineyard where his parents worked. Decades later, he found himself describing his phobia to a jury, calling himself “a prisoner in my own home” after runoff water from a nearby development turned his 40-acre property into wetlands and inundated it with frogs. “I am petrified. I go home at night and I can’t get in my garage because of the frogs,” Marinaccio testified in 2009. “They’re right in front of the damn door, OK?” It was part of a seven-year legal fight involving Marinaccio, the town of Clarence and a developer that, according to The Buffalo News, finally ended last month when the state’s highest court ruled that Marinaccio, who was awarded $1.6 million in compensation after the 2009 trial, is not entitled to an additional $250,000 in punitive damages. Marinaccio sued Clarence, a Buffalo suburb, and Kieffer Enterprises Inc. after runoff diverted onto Marinaccio’s property from a new Kieffer subdivision turned it into wetlands. A town engineer initially said the water would flow into a ditch elsewhere on Kieffer property. The town later discovered the ditch was actually on Marinaccio’s property, and that it was too small to handle the flow of water. Lawyers on both sides said Monday that Marinaccio’s frog testimony amounted to just moments of a more than three-week trial – and may not have affected the jury’s award. The Court of Appeals, however, referred to it in a five-page decision in which it determined that while Marinaccio had been wronged, the developer hadn’t acted maliciously. “This newly created wetland caused mosquitoes to breed and frogs to gather on plaintiff’s property, about which plaintiff is particularly phobic,” the court wrote in an opinion dated March 21. “Consequently, plaintiff had problems traversing his property without the assistance of his family and friends, whom plaintiff would often call on to remove frogs from his driveway and near the door of his home.” “I’m petrified of the little creatures,” Marinaccio, 65, said in Monday’s Buffalo News. The lower court jury returned a verdict of $1.3 million against the town and $328,400 against Kieffer for compensatory damages, as well as $250,000 in punitive damages against Kieffer. In reversing the punitive damages, the Court of Appeals said they are awarded only when there is evidence “of spite or malice, or a fraudulent or evil motive on the part of the defendant, or such a conscious and deliberate disregard of the interests of others that the conduct may be called willful or wanton.” As part of a post-verdict agreement, the town will dig ditches to help dry out Marinaccio’s land. The property owner told the newspaper his plans involve much bigger creatures than frogs. “I’m going to put cows out there,” Marinaccio said.
This may be the most frivolous lawsuit I have ever seen, and the judge who awarded this shyster $1.6 million dollars because he was apparently scared of frogs should lose his job for not being able to see through Marinaccio’s bullshit. He was clearly a little upset when flooding caused his property to become flooded and overrun with frogs, but how can you be petrified of frogs? They pose zero threat to humans, it’s not like these were poison arrow frogs, then you might have a lawsuit on your hands.
If you gave me $1.6 million bucks right now, but it rained frogs on my house like a biblical plague every day for the rest of my life, I take the money in a cocaine heartbeat. Frogs are, at worst, a minor inconvenience. In fact, if I could spend the rest of my days blogging from my couch surrounded by frogs, but with $1.6 million in the bank instead of sitting in this office on a day like today I say bring on the amphibians. Throw in a tortoise or even a humorous gecko with an Australian accent. I’m in.