Nome Neighbors’ Lawsuit on Sled Dog Noise, Smell Dismissed

A lawsuit between Nome neighbors that centered on noise and odor from one household’s dog lot has been dismissed—and is no longer set to go before a jury this summer.

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Since 2012 neighbors Kevin Bopp and wife Lynn DeFilippo have been in a legal tussle with mushers Nils Hahn and wife and mushing partner Diana Haecker.

The neighbors claim the sound and odor of the mushers’ dog lot is a nuisance that makes living next door unbearable; the mushers counter that they’re simply running a dog kennel in rural Alaska. It’s all complicated by the fact that the homes in question are in an unincorporated subdivision six miles outside of town where the City of Nome’s rules don’t apply.

Escalating tensions led Hahn and Haecker to lead the charge on declaring Alaska a “Right to Mush” state last year. It’s all complicated by the fact that the homes in question are in an unincorporated subdivision six miles outside of town where the City of Nome’s rules don’t apply.

The conflict came to a head last month when Kotzebue Judge Paul Roteman ruled the mushers’ dog lot—both in terms of sound and odor—would be acceptable to a “reasonable person.” The case was then set to go before a jury in June—until all four parties agreed to dismiss the case, with prejudice, earlier this month.

“And the with prejudice means that no lawsuit regarding dog noise, or dog odors, or any of the other related complaints touched on in this lawsuit can be brought again in the future.”

That’s Bethel attorney Myron Angstman, who represented mushers Hahn and Haecker in the case. (The attorney for Bopp and Deflippo did not return messages asking for comment.) Angstman says another important part of the settlement is an option for mushers Hahn and Haecker to buy Bopp’s property at what he calls a “fair market” price.

Hahn says—after the judge ruled his dogs could stay put unless a jury decides otherwise—purchasing the land is a clear way forward.

“I think it’s the best option for both parties. You know, I can speak for myself, it’s certainly the best option for us, to buy the land and we offer Mr. Bopp above market value, so, I think that’s the way to go.”

For Bopp, settling simply came down to rising legal fees—fees he says would have ballooned through weeks of trial. Now he’s dropping the case without any changes to a situation he says made life “unbearable” at home.

“I made a decision because of the money, mainly. I don’t want to spend any more. And its really tiring going to court. Haha. Now this suit has beat me with money, so, I really can’t say much as come out in my favor.”

The “pending contract” for mushers Hahn and Haecker to buy Bopp’s property hinges on him relocating his house elsewhere. Bopp says that’s easier said than done in Nome’s tight housing market—but the settlement gives him a one-year window to complete the move.

Also part of the settlement: both parties agree to pay their own attorney fees—fees now running to thousands of dollars after years of court filings and legal maneuvering. Attorney Angstman says that’s no small concession—given that the losing side of a lawsuit can be ordered by the court to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney fees.

Matthew Smith is a reporter at KNOM in Nome.

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