Neighbour told to pay £20k in court row over confiscated football

Esther and Zavy Adler and their son Chaim outside Mayor's and City County Court
Chaim Adler (right) is accused of 'snarling' and mocking his parents Esther and Zavy Adler's neighbours - Champion News

A father must pay £20,000 to his neighbours after they sued him following a row over a confiscated football, a court heard.

Chaim Adler found his eight-year-old son was left in tears when his neighbours in Golders Green, north London, did not give back a ball he had kicked over the fence.

Mr Adler then entered their garden “snarling” at and mocking neighbour Warren Bergson, before returning the next day and trying to push his way into their flat while demanding the ball back “aggressively”.

Mr Bergson and his wife Dr Edel McAndrew-Bergson then sued, claiming trespass and harassment, with a judge now awarding £19,800 damages.

Judge Stephen Hellman said Mr Adler, 35, a fire alarm company boss, had been provoked by the Bergsons’ actions in not giving back the ball but that he had gone too far.

“Chaim Adler’s behaviour was aggressive, humiliating and intimidating,” he said at Mayor’s and City County Court.

“This behaviour goes beyond that which merely causes upset.”

‘Dispute that got out of hand’

In a previous ruling, Judge Hellman said the row had been an “unhappy case about a neighbours’ dispute that got out of hand” after the Bergsons moved in next to Mr Adler’s parents in 2017.

Mr Adler’s parents, Zavy, 73, and Esther Adler, 69, had lived in their home in Highfield Avenue for 40 years, bringing up their children there.

The Adler family live on the right, and the Bergsons live on the left
The Adler family live on the right, and the Bergsons live on the left

But tensions began after Dr McAndrew-Bergson, 58, a psychologist, and her barrister husband - who died after the court trial - moved to London and rented a small one-bedroom garden flat next door.

The first clash took place in August 2017 when Dr McAndrew-Bergson was hanging out clothes and water suddenly began spilling into the garden from next door.

Her husband - a motoring law specialist - went to investigate and quickly realised that the flood had been caused by water overflowing from the Adlers’ grandchildren’s paddling pool.

It led to a confrontation with the elder Mr Adler, which the Bergsons claimed was the start of their troubles with the neighbours.

‘Attempts to intimidate’

They said a football was “crashed” repeatedly against the fence separating the gardens every weekend as a means of “intimidating” them, and they had resorted to taking British Library memberships so they had somewhere peaceful to go, they said.

The Bergsons said the trouble peaked in two confrontations with Chaim, a frequent visitor to his parents’ home, over a long weekend in May 2018.

The Adler children’s football was at the centre of the row, with the Bergsons becoming exasperated at the constant noise of it being kicked against the fence.

Dr McAndrew-Bergson had grabbed the ball when it came into her garden and decided to confiscate it, taking it into the flat on another occasion over the same weekend.

They said the row over the football resulted in Chaim becoming enraged and twice entering their garden, once with a “small army” of Adler family members, who the Bergsons claimed had decided to use them as their “evening entertainment”.

On the first occasion, he was “snarling” and mocking Mr Bergson, but on the second had attempted to push his way into their flat while demanding the ball back “aggressively,” they claimed.

Dr McAndrew-Bergson said they had shut the door on him, but Chaim was incensed, banging on the door, pressing his face against the window, “baring his teeth and growling” at them.

Dr Edel McAndrew-Bergson claims Chaim Adler growled at her and her husband
Dr Edel McAndrew-Bergson claims Chaim Adler growled at her and her husband - Champion News

In what the judge called “haunting” evidence, she said her husband had also been surrounded during the weekend, with Chaim mocking him, shouting “here, here” and repeatedly kicking his right leg in the air.

In the witness box, Chaim denied doing anything wrong, saying that he was only a father protecting his son, who had been shouted at and reduced to tears when he asked for his ball back.

He said he had gone and had a “back and forth” with Mr Bergson in the doorway of his flat, but Mr Bergson had shut the door and did not return the ball.

Following a trial, Judge Hellman in November 2022 said trouble between the families was always a risk, because the Adlers enjoyed family gatherings at weekends and during religious holidays, while the Bergsons were a “mature couple who enjoyed peace and quiet”.

Neighbours ‘harassed’

He ruled that Chaim had harassed the Bergsons and trespassed, when “at least part of his body” entered their flat during one of the incidents.

“He was angry because they had twice reduced his eight-year-old son to tears,” he said. “The depth of his anger came across very clearly when he was giving evidence.”

He said both incidents were provoked to some extent, but Chaim’s response was over the top.

“I accept he was angry because they had upset his son, but he has not shown me that his course of conduct was reasonable and I am satisfied that it was not.”

Following a trial and judgment in 2022, the case went back to court again last week for Judge Hellman to rule on the amount in damages due to the Bergsons.

He ordered Chaim to pay £8,800 compensation to Dr Bergson and another £11,000 to her husband’s estate, following his death after the initial trial.

He also ordered Chaim’s parents to pay £1,700 compensation to reflect interference with the Bergsons’ right of way over a passage leading to their flat, which had been frequently obstructed by building materials.

The case will come back to court again at a later date for a decision on who pays the lawyers’ bills for the dispute.