CLEVELAND (WJW) — Testimony got underway on Tuesday in an unusual civil trial in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, where a Cleveland Heights couple is asking a jury to find that a large pizza oven built by their neighbors in their back yard created a nuisance and affected their health.
Brooks Jones and his wife Mika filed the lawsuit against their neighbors, Paul Schambs and Mary Lynne Newsome, after other attempts to resolve the dispute over the pizza oven failed.
On the witness stand, Brooks Jones testified, “we communicated it directly to them, verbally and in writing.”
Jones told the jury that since the oven was built in 2017, smoke and fumes have affected his health and created a hardship for his family. He pointed to a holiday when they had leave their home on the second floor of an apartment building they own, two doors down from the oven.
“The smoke had been going on for ten or ten-and-a-half hours. Conditions were intolerable at our house. We went to a different rental that night to spend the night,” he said.
On cross-examination by attorneys for Paul Schambs and Mary Lynne Newsome, Jones told the jury that he first noticed the effects of the smoke from the pizza oven in May 2017, but still attended a pizza party at his neighbors’ home in June 2017. When asked if he enjoyed the pizza, Jones said “yeah,” and when asked if he had a good time, Jones responded, “I had a great time.”
Jones conceded that after he complained about the smoke and fumes, Paul Schambs made some changes, including raising the chimney on the oven and installing a fan to re-direct the smoke, but Jones maintains the oven continued to be a nuisance in the neighborhood.
“It bothers me physically. It bothers me by disrupting our life, causing a tremendous amount of stress when we have to rearrange our life,” he said.
Jones testified that he filed complaints about the pizza oven with agencies that include the Cleveland Heights Fire Department and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. He and his wife decided to file the lawsuit against their neighbors after their complaints over the years fell on deaf ears.
Jones told the jury “this situation was a hot potato being passed from one entity to another. Where it ended up was, [Cleveland Division of Air Quality] as well as Cleveland Heights deemed that this did not fit within their public nuisance ordinances, and they would not pursue it.”
Jones and his wife are seeking at least $25,000 in damages. They’re also seeking an injunction to prevent their neighbors from using the pizza oven in the future.