Families in a Sunnyvale, Calif. neighborhood are suing to have a couple’s autistic son, who’s now 11 years old, declared a public nuisance.
When Sillicon Valley couple Vidyut Gopa, an engineer at a Silicon Valley company, and Parul Agrawal, a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, got complaints from neighbors after their son reportedly pulled children’s hair and bit a woman, among other things, they hired caregivers and put their son in therapeutic classes. But the couple was still handed a lawsuit last summer by two couples who lived next door, saying their son’s behavior was having an effect on the neighborhood’s “hot” real estate market and that "people feel constrained in the marketability of their homes as this issue remains unresolved and the nuisance remains unabated."
"This has been pretty devastating for us, but we are doing our best to cope with it," said Gopal, who has already been devastated by feeling obliged to leave his home of seven years with his family.
The lawsuit—still in effect despite the family's move—says that in previous years the boy has hit a baby with his hand, has spat at neighbors in addition to trying to ride his bicycle into them, and has sat on a neighbor’s cat on numerous occasions.
In October a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction (an order in the early stages of a lawsuit) to ensure that the boy didn’t hit or assault anyone or their personal property in the neighborhood.
Neighbor Sue Alford, who did not file the suit, told Mercury News, “We all met with them and talked to them about their son, but they didn't see our point of view. We wanted the street to be a safe place for other children.”
Parents of autistic children in the Bay Area are now worried about the safety of their children fearing the lawsuit will lead to similar lawsuits elsewhere.
Jill Escher, president of the board of the Autism Society of the San Francisco Bay Area said, "Imagine if lawsuits like this were allowed to proliferate on such allegations. This could happen to all autism families at the drop of a hat. They would not know where to go."
The case’s next hearing will take place next Tuesday.
[via San Jose Mercury News]