Tort Law

Neighbors' suit contends boy with autism is a public nuisance

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A suit filed last year by neighbors of an autistic boy in Sunnyvale, California, claims he is a “public nuisance” because of his attacks on their children that included kicking, slapping and biting.

The suit is raising concerns among autism advocates, report ABC News and the San Jose Mercury News in stories here and here.

The plaintiffs contend the boys’ parents failed to control their son, who is now 11 years old. A judge granted a preliminary injunction in July 2014 requiring the boy’s family to make sure he doesn’t strike or assault neighbors. The autistic boy and his family moved out of their home in September 2014, but the suit is still pending.

One of the plaintiffs is Robert Flowers. “This is not about autism. This is about public safety,” he told the Mercury News. Flowers tells ABC the autistic boy assaulted his 4-year-old son while he was riding his bike. The autistic boy “threw [Flowers’ son] to the ground, grabbed with both hands his hair and shook him violently,” Flowers said.

The suit also claims the autistic child slapped a baby, sat on a neighbor’s cat, and tried to ride his bike into the neighbors.

Another plaintiff, Kumaran Santhanam, told the Mercury News that neighbors met with the autistic boys’ parents, who at one point suggested their son could play outside on even or odd days of the week, while the other children played outside on the other days. But ultimately the boys’ parents did not commit to anything, Santhanam said.

Parents of the boy told the Mercury News said they did try to help their son. They gave him medication, put him in therapeutic classes and hired caregivers. The parents released this statement to ABC News: “We are … very disappointed by the non-factual and deeply manipulative falsehoods that have been spread … which we feel amounts to a modern-day witch-hunt against a small disabled child and his family.”

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