From the Star Ledger:
A Superior Court judge on Wednesday dismissed the remaining counts of a civil lawsuit involving the infamous “Watcher” house, ending years of litigation about the Westfield home that gained international attention for its apparent stalker.
Judge Camille M. Kenny threw out three counts of fraud in the civil lawsuit that claimed the home’s previous owners knew about an alleged stalker, who referred to himself in letters sent to the home as “The Watcher.” The sellers, the suit claimed, maliciously withheld the information from the new owners out of fear they would lose the house sale.
The judge said she dismissed the counts because there was no evidence the former owners, John and Andrea Woods, intentionally hid a letter they received from “The Watcher” from the new owners, Maria and Derek Broaddus.
The Broaddus couple, who have three children, bought the old Dutch Colonial house on Boulevard for $1.35 million in June 2014. Within the first two weeks, they received three letters from a writer who called himself “The Watcher,” claiming he had ownership and control of the house.
Days before the closing, the Woods received their first and only letter from “The Watcher.” Andrea Woods said she found the letter to be odd, not threatening, and threw it out in the process of moving out of the home, the judge said.
In her reason for dismissing the counts, Kenny said sustaining the complaint would have put a burden on future sellers to speculate about what they need to disclose to buyers. Since the Woods, who lived in the home for 23 years, received just one letter from the apparent stalker, longtime owners would have consider disclosing one-time issues with a neighbor, such as a loud party.
“We’d be putting uncertainty in real estate law,” she said.
Richard Kaplow, the Woods’ lawyer, said the judge made the right decision because state law requires owners to disclose physical elements associated with a property, not an off-site social condition, such as undesirable neighbors.