Update: N.M. court rejects suit against neighbor’s use of electronic devices

Updating a post from five years ago (related), a New Mexico appeals court has upheld the dismissal on summary judgment of Arthur Firstenburg’s lawsuit against next-door neighbor Raphaela Monribot for refusing to turn off her cellphone, computer, dimmer switches, and other electronic paraphernalia, which Firstenburg alleged cause him injury because he experiences electromagnetic sensitivity, or EMS, an acute sensitivity to electronic radiation, a condition on which (per the court) he has been drawing Social Security disability payments since 1992. The trial court excluded the proffered testimony of Firstenburg’s expert witnesses on causation; without it, it found that his claims of causation necessarily failed for lack of admissible evidence. More: George Johnson, New York Times.


  • This case encapsulates what is wrong with the American legal system. Some poor woman, who happens to live next door to a hypochondriac freak has to spend $85K and years defending herself from that freak because, quelle horreur, she used her cellphone and wanted WiFi.

    This case should have been tossed early on. Even assuming Firstenburg does have EMS and his flare-up was caused by the defendants use of cellphones etc., he does not have the right to impose crazy restrictions upon her quiet enjoyment of her home. That the judicial process even entertained this is beyond comprehension.

    • What is the law of New Mexico in regard to nuisance? I don’t think that it is true in general that there are no restrictions on the quiet enjoyment of one’s home if it impinges on the well-being of a neighbor, but I don’t know what exactly the law is in New Mexico. Suppose that the defendant had engaged in an activity that really did, provably, make the defendant sick. Suppose, for example, that the plaintiff had a peanut allergy and that the defendant cooked extensively with peanuts whose fumes reached the plaintiff’s house and made him sick.

      • Bill, I don’t think that I said that there are no conceivable actions that could be restricted. These are crazy restrictions that the judicial system should have rejected out of hand. You buy a house, and you have to spend thousands because some kook doesn’t want you to use your cellphone. The judges who tolerate this nonsense should be absolutely ashamed of themselves and ashamed about what the legal system has become.

        As for your peanut hypo, I think we need to think about whether we want the courts (i.e., the government) refereeing such things. And do we really want normal people enjoying their homes in a normal way subjected to catastrophic damage claims? The instant case shows, unequivocally, that judges simply should not have the power to be that intrusive.

  • What a fascinating peek behind the curtain of the ever-growing SSI disability scam. First we have a plaintiff who has been declared “totally and permanently disabled” due to a bizarre and wholly subjective syndrome that couldn’t pass muster under the preponderance standard applicable to a civil case. (Never mind that this “totally disabled” man managed to prosecute a lawsuit for years.) Then we learn in the opinion that the plaintiff is living quite large on the public dime, having hired himself a personal cook. He even offered the defendant $10,000 cash to curtail her use of electronic devices! (This is truly Keynes’ “multiplier” at maximum effect — the government pays person 1 to play sick, and person 1 pays person 2 to install different light switches.)

  • EMS is a plot point in Better Call Saul. His father suffers from EMS.

  • There is a town in West Virginia that would be perfect for Mr. Firstenburg:


  • Better Call Saul … also in New Mexico.

    what _is_ going on there?

  • There were similar cases regarding people with real or imagined “nut” allergies trying to force neighbors to remove “nut” trees


  • I’d be tempted to put a bunch of antennas – yagis, parabolics, what have you – up on my roof, pointed his way. Wouldn’t hook them up to anything, just wondering if the mere sight of all that increases his “EMS” problems.

    My bet’s on “yes”…

  • in this case, it would have been better for her to agree and take the $10000. Since this is a fake disease, there would be no way for him to tell that she was talking on the phone or using the computer.

    It is still a stupid case that should not have been litigated and a case for loser pays.

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