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Fri, Sep 02, 2016

San Mateo County Wins Small Claims Appeal Over Airplane Noise

But Judge Says Case Should Be Heard By A Different  court

San Mateo County has won its appeal in Small Claims Court and will not have to pay a resident $1,000 in connection to noise from airplanes operating from San Carlos Airport (KSQL), but it's unlikely that will be the final word in the case.

The suit was brought by Adam Ullman, a non-practicing attorney and member of a local Airport Noise Working Group. He had sought $5,000 from the county because it had failed "to mitigate the continuous public nuisance of very loud aircraft flying over my home."

He was initially awarded $1,000, plus $65 in court costs, according to the Almanac News.

The county appealed the ruling. Deputy County Counsel Brian Wong said that it would not have normally appealed such a small ruling, but Ullman was publicizing his win and encouraging others to also sue, which Wong said raised "the possibility of substantial additional liability."

But in his ruling, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge John L. Grandsaert said that the issue was "something larger than a small claims case," and said Ullman's presentation was among the best he's ever heard in small-claims court.

Grandsaert said it appeared that Ullman was seeking "injunctive relief" from the noise, and that small-claims court was not the proper venue for such a case.

Grandsaert said that Ullman had failed to prove specific damages caused him by the airplanes that fly directly over his house, and so he did not have grounds for such a claim. But he said that his ruling in no way would affect on a claim for injunctive relief in the proper court. "I can't grant injunctive relief," he said.

Ullman's specific complaints center on Pilatus PC-12 turboprops flown by Surf Air that use the airport, and which he say are louder than many jets. He says the noise has caused him to lose the "quiet enjoyment of my home" and that he can no longer work from home because of the noise.

The county is conducting a San Carlos Airport Aircraft Disturbance Study, and has received a $481,f59 grant from the FAA for a noise study and creation of a plan that will "address noise-related impacts in the vicinity of the airport," according to San Carlos Airport manager Gretchen Kelly.

FMI: www.smcgov.org

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