When Paul Marinaccio was a child living in Italy, he had a terrifying encounter with a neighbor. He remembers wandering from the vineyard where his parents worked to a nearby farm to pick figs. While there, he encountered a man, who angrily chased the young Paul from the property while, for some reason, holding several bullfrogs. The fear stayed with Marinaccio.
So when the developers of a nearby subdivision began draining water onto his upstate New York property in 2000, Marinaccio wasn't pleased. What started out as minor flooding soon spread from a few acres to 37, nearly covering the 40 acre property and, worse, creating ideal breeding grounds for certain ampibians. Frogs reportedly swarmed Marinaccio's driveway and lawn, keeping him inside during summer and spring months.
Eventually, Marinaccio sued the Town of Clarence and the developer, spending over $300,000 in legal bills over a seven-year period. Here's part of his testimony.
"You people don't understand," Marinaccio said in court. "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 talked about how he had to call his grown daughter, who lives a few miles away, two or three nights a week to come over and shoo away the frogs.
"In the winter, it's OK, because I know there's no frogs," he said. "But in the summertime, I mean I'm a damn prisoner in my own home."
The jury, apparently, was convinced by the testimony and awarded Marinaccio a $1.6 million settlement, though it remains unclear how much his frog phobia affected their judgment. Not that Marinaccio cares. "I beat the government," he said.
"They looked at me like I was some dumb Italian, with no education, and could just roll over me," he said. "They never thought I was going to win the case. You should have seen their faces the day of the verdict."