LANSING-A Lansing alderman and her husband have found themselves embroiled in a legal dispute with a neighbor who claims that smoke from the couple’s wood stove is causing her undue stress and health problems.
Diana Goodwin has filed a lawsuit against Lansing Alderman Michelle Slaton, and her husband, Nicholas Slaton. Darlene Sekerak and Ben Massey are also listed as co-defendants in the case as they own the property occupied by the Slatons.
The case centers on a wood burning stove that was installed on the property occupied by the Slatons, according to court records. Much of Goodwin’s claims rest upon the assertion that the Slaton’s stove was not properly installed, and that the smoke it produces drifts onto her property, according to court records.
But the Slatons don’t see it that way and the pair has launched a countersuit seeking more than $25,000 in damages. The couple claims Goodwin’s comments to third parties about the Slatons are defamatory in nature and harmful to their home improvement business.
The case is set for the April 25, session of Ashe County Civil Court.
How’d we get here?
Origins of the lawsuit can be traced back to the fall of 2014.
According to Goodwin’s complaint, she contacted the Slatons on Nov 3, 2014 regarding the smoke that was being produced by the stove and the problems it was creating on her property.
Two weeks later, Goodwin alleges that she became ill while working in her office due to the smoke from the Slayton’s stove. Goodwin said she and Michelle Slaton “discussed the issues with the smoke” at that time, according to court documents. The Slatons’ counterclaim only acknowledges that Michelle Slaton spoke with Goodwin at that time.
Goodwin’s complaint alleges that on two separate occasions, Nov. 19, 2014 and Dec. 9, 2014, that the Slatons added additional smoke stack sections to the stove’s chimney, but claims her smoke-related woes continued.
In December 2014, Goodwin said she presented her complaints to Town of Lansing officials and its Aldermen – Michelle Slaton holds an elected seat on that board – but said the problems were never fixed. The Slatons’ countersuit claims Goodwin was informed by the town that the Slatons were not in violation of any ordinances.
The complaint alleges that creosote has built up in the home, and claims the smoke makes breathing difficult. She also claims the smoke could cause problems in securing renters for the property in the future.
When reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Nicholas Slaton declined to comment and deferred all questions to his attorney, Jak Reeves, but the Slatons, along with Sekerak and Massey, did file an official response to Goodwin’s complaint.
The countersuit alleges that since the fall of 2014, Goodwin had communicated defamatory remarks concerning the defendants in the form of signs on her property and by contacting members of environmental and regulatory agencies.
In January, 2015, the defendants contacted Goodwin through counsel and demanded that she cease and desist from making any further defamatory remarks.
Goodwin claims the stove was installed incorrectly, according to the counterclaim.
The Slatons claim Goodwin’s statements are directly related to their trade and therefore harmful and deserving of monetary compensation.
Reeves declined to comment directly on the ongoing civil suit.
“Due to pending trial and in an effort to preserve our clients’ attorney-client privilege, I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to go into the details of this case at this time,” Reeves wrote in an email to a Jefferson Post interview request.
“However, in response to your other questions, I can tell you that the stove on our clients’ property remains operational, although it is not currently being used due to the season. It is fully compliant with all state and federal laws, and has been since installation,” Reeves said.
Goodwin also deferred comment to her attorney. Attempts to reach Goodwin’s attorney were not immediately successful.
Reeves indicated Thursday that the two sides had not yet come to an agreement.
“Our clients are prepared to proceed to trial at next week’s session if the case is called by the court,” said Reeves.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.