Flahive v. Town of Mansfield
A municipality may not fine a tenant for a party at the tenant's premises that constitutes a nuisance, absent evidence that the tenant planned, participated in or attended the party. Allegedly, the petitioner, Neil Flahive, was one of four tenants who lived on a premises at which a party took place, and the hosts of the party charged the guests a fee to attend and did not obtain any permits to distribute beer or make any attempt to monitor underage drinking. A municipal official of the Town of Mansfield concluded that the party disturbed the quiet enjoyment of private or public property and assessed a $250 fine against Flahive for committing a nuisance. Flahive appealed to the Superior Court and argued that there was no evidence that he hosted or attended the party. The Superior Court found that Flahive established that he was aggrieved, because he received a citation and was assessed a $250 fine. The Superior Court reviewed de novo. The municipality failed to establish Flahive participated in a nuisance, which municipal ordinances define as "[c]onduct of a person or persons on any premises in a manner which is a violation of law, or which creates a disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private or public property." Although the party constituted a nuisance, there was no evidence that Flahive hosted or attended the party. The municipal ordinance does not include any provision for strict liability or vicarious guilt. "Merely being a cotenant at premises at which such nuisance activity occurs," wrote the court, "is insufficient to create an inference of cooperation or participation in the untoward behavior." The court granted judgment to Flahive.