(PGN) Frank Charlton, who unsuccessfully sued a gay couple to have their security fence removed, maintains he shouldn’t have to pay the couple’s attorneys’ fees.
According to a recent legal filing, Charlton maintained he reasonably believed the fence would reduce property values in the area, thus he didn’t sue the couple in bad faith.
Keith Davis and David Ruth live in the Bucktoe Manor subdivision of New Garden Township, Chester County.
According to court records, the couple and their two children have been targeted for antigay slurs and vandalism, and “Get Out Fags!” was spray-painted on their garage door.
The couple built a 6-foot fence in 2014 for protection. But the next year, several neighbors, including Charlton, sued to have the fence removed, claiming it was an eyesore and too high.
Protracted litigation ensued. But in June, Chester County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey R. Sommer ruled in the couple’s favor. Charlton and other plaintiffs didn’t appeal to a higher court.
Shortly after Sommer’s ruling, Davis and Ruth requested a court order that plaintiffs pay their attorneys’ fees, totaling $77,000.
The men contend that plaintiffs objected to the fence as a pretext to coerce them into leaving the neighborhood due to anti-LGBT animus.
But in a 26-page reply brief, attorneys for Charlton emphasize that he held a sincere belief the fence would lower property values in the subdivision. Charlton never intended to harass or annoy the Davis-Ruth family by filing suit, they wrote in the July 29 brief.
“A concern regarding possible diminution of property values is valid and meritorious,” his attorneys wrote.
They also point out that Sommer didn’t conclude that Charlton acted in bad faith.
“While [Sommer’s] June 20, 2016, decision reaches numerous conclusions regarding the events at issue, there is no finding of fact that Frank Charlton’s conduct was in any way arbitrary, vexatious or in bad faith,” they stated.
The attorneys also claimed the Davis-Ruth legal bill of $77,000 is unreasonable, because the plaintiffs’ legal bill was only $28,380.
“[There] is nearly a $50,000 discrepancy between the legal services provided to the parties in the same case,” Charlton’s attorneys wrote.
Plaintiffs Scott and Allison Bonne, Ryan and Kara Carpenter, Doug Semmell and Michael Lacinski have until Aug. 20 to reply to the couple’s request for the fees.
Neither side had a comment for this story.