How a Dispute over a “Spite Fence” Led to a Finding of Contempt of Court

Picture from Curb Your Enthusiasm – Larry’s Spite Store

“Good fences make good neighbours”. – Robert Frost

In Duncan v Buckles, 2021 ONSC 1158, the plaintiff brought a motion to find the defendant Mr. Lepp in contempt of court. The case arose from an argument over an alleged “spite fence” between neighbours.

The history of the case is interesting and winding. The case includes a previous small claims court case about whether the fence constituted trespass. Ms. Buckles alleged that Ms. Duncan trespassed on her property with the “spite fence”.

With respect to the small claims court case, it was found that the “spite fence” was on the defendant’s side of the property, and there was no trespass. While the small claims court case was ongoing, Mr. Lepp leapt to the aid of Ms. Buckles. In doing so, he posted comments online about the Ms. Duncan and the Town’s politics.

  • His statements suggested that she intentionally acted unlawfully;
  • His statements suggested that she received preferential treatment from the Town because of an improper political connection;
  • He directly stated that she was a liar; and
  • He used a number of direct derogatory terms such as that she was rude and vindictive.

As a result, there was a subsequent case for an injunction for Mr. Lepp to remove all blogposts, YouTube videos, internet content about Ms. Duncan, her fence, her property and that he refrain from doing so in the future on any online platform.

The injunction was granted. However, Mr. Lepp outwardly disobeyed parts of the order. His disobedience led to the finding that he was in contempt of court.

In finding Mr. Lepp in contempt of court, Justice Myers ordered Mr. Lepp to formally apologize for violating the order of the court and accept that the law applies to him. “In addition to an apology, prior to sentencing, to purge his contempt, Mr. Lepp needs to demonstrate that he is complying fully with the order. He needs to take down every remaining internet post that he has posted at any time whether before or after May 25, 2020 that contains any of the defamatory words listed by Favreau J.” (see para 75)

I find this case noteworthy as I predict that there will more cases like this between neighbours – where real life disputes spillover to the online world.

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