In a legal drama that seems more suitable for television than real life, a single mother from Houston has filed a lawsuit against her downstairs neighbor in her apartment building, charging that he “intentionally and maliciously” woke her up every single night for forty-two nights in a row in order to prevent her from getting a good night’s sleep. The plaintiff, Kiri Martin is asking help from the legal system to stop the madness and let her get some rest.
The suit was filed on January 30th against defendant Preston Heath Davidson in the 281st District Court in Harrist County, Texas. Davidson has no listed telephone number online or through directory assistance so was not able to be reached for comment. Ms. Martin could not comment because of the pending litigation, but the lawsuit states that she is unable to tolerate the situation any longer. “Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer from 42 days of sleep deprivation at the time of this filing. Her work has and is suffering, and she cannot continue any longer.”
Though there is not likely to be a ruling on the case for a while, Martin has apparently caught the attention and sympathy of 164th District Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan of Harris County: the judge signed an ex parte temporary restraining order that prevents Martin’s neighbor from doing anything at all that will disturb her sleep at night. The order specifically bars him from engaging in any harassing or threatening behavior, whether that is in the form of communicating with her in a “vulgar, profane, obscene” way, through the use of obscenity, or by in way causing her or her child any kind of physical harm.
A review of Martin’s petition reveals that she and her young daughter have resided at her current address, an apartment in Houston, for over 18 months, and that Mr. Davidson moved into the apartment directly underneath hers in July of 2014. The two apartments have an identical layout, and according to Ms. Martin, since the first of December her neighbor has been taking actions that have substantially interfered with her ability to use and enjoy her home. The petition reads, “Defendant works hard to keep plaintiff (who is a single working mother with no child support and who owns her own business consisting solely of herself and is the sole source of income for her family) constantly awake, from directly below her in his apartment, each time she dares to drift off to sleep throughout any given night.” The petition indicates that since the start of the problem on December 1st, the defendant has woken her up a total of 124 times.
The details that Ms. Martin provides in her lawsuit are both overwhelming and horrifying. By way of example, she provides a rundown in her affidavit of the events of Christmas Eve, December 24th. She reveals that she was awakened at 10:08 p.m., 10:46 p.m., 11:15 p.m., 12:05 a.m., 1:13 a.m., 1:20 a.m., 1:40 a.m., 3:36 a.m., 3:45 a.m., and 4:59 a.m. Her petition cites similar patterns on other nights, including being woken up seven times beginning at 10:05 p.m. and ending at 4:43 a.m. on the night of January 13th. As a way of trying to overcome the incessant noise and interruption from her downstairs neighbor, she sought help from her physician for prescription sleep aids to enable her to sleep through the problem, but the defendant apparently only worked harder as a result of the additional challenge.
“In response, and as a result, defendant has now started making short, sharp, loud, nonsensical outburst exclamations such as “AWWW!” and “UUHHHH!” and loud laughter directly below plaintiff’s sleeping head on work and school nights, during normal sleeping hours, as his only means now of awakening plaintiff at night,” says the lawsuit filing. She adds that Davidson has used other means of awakening her that are less obvious, and adds that when she gets up to move to another room in her own apartment so that he will not be directly beneath her bedroom, Davidson has moved along with her downstairs in order to continue the abuse. The only respite that she claims to have gotten from the constant disruption came after she asked Davidson to stop awakening her several times per night, and threatened to file a restraining order against him. Though he responded by saying, “You don’t have any evidence,” she did find that he stopped his activities for a period of two days, but then started up again after that brief interim.
Martin is not mincing words in the contents of her petition against Davidson. She indicates that he is awakening her “intentionally and maliciously” and that he “wantonly, willfully, constantly, regularly, unreasonably, purposefully, maliciously, substantially and without cessation” has been keeping her from her enjoyment of her apartment, a legal term that is important to the particular charges that she is filing. The lawsuit cites intentional interference with property rights as the cause of action and seeks about $10,000 in actual damages, exemplary damages and unspecified mental anguish damages. In lieu of that charge the may bring charges of intentional infliction of emotional distress, seeking unspecified actual and exemplary damages. There is no word as to whether Martin will bring in sleep specialists as expert witnesses as to the damage that enforced sleep deprivation can cause, but considering the wealth of research that has been done on the topic, it certainly seems like it might be worth the effort. The final word in Martin’s petition states, “His conduct is extreme and outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”