US man with frog phobia wins $1.6m in damages after run-off water turns home into amphibian-friendly wetland


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The Independent US

A man with a phobia of frogs has won $1.6million in damages after run-off water from a neighbouring property turned his home into an amphibian-friendly wetland.

Batracophobic Paul Marinaccio, a road construction company owner from Clarence, Buffalo, in the state of New York, was awarded the sum by the State Court of Appeals after a neighbour, who was developing land, diverted run-off water incorrectly in 2000.

Within a year, a few aces of Mr Marinaccio's property were flooded; by 2009 the wetland had grown to 37 acres.

And with the water came frogs, which Mr Marinaccio told a court he was so terrified of that he had to call his adult daughter over two or three nights a week to shoo them away.

He started a legal battle against the neighbouring developer Kieffer Enterprises and the town of Clarence, which approved the drainage plans, seven years ago for compensation and to get the flooding fixed.

When he took to the witness stand in 2009 he told jurors: “You people don't understand. I am petrified. I go home at night, and I can't get in my garage because of the frogs. They're right in front of the damn door, OK?”

He added: “In the winter, it's OK, because I know there's no frogs. But in the summertime - I mean, I'm a damn prisoner in my own home.”

His phobia was so bad that he once paid one of his workers $65 an hour to collect frogs in a bucket and remove them from a road construction site they were working on so that he could bear to be there alongside his employees.

Mr Marinaccio said his phobia may have started in his childhood in Italy, when he was chased by a man holding bullfrogs, the Buffalo News reported.

The jury awarded him $1.3m compensation from the Town of Clarence and $328,400 from Keiffer after hearing that the town had approved plans to require water from Keiffer's development to flow into a storm sewer and then a ditch. But the ditch was on Mr Marinaccio's property and was not large enough to hold all of the water. The town will now have to dig ditches around the borders of his property to drain off the flood water and dry out the land.

The case finally ended a couple of weeks ago after he lost a bid for a further $250,000 in punitive damages against Keiffer Enterprises.