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Judge Urges Settlement For Neighbors Suing Family Of Autistic Boy For Being 'Public Nuisance'

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A judge called for calm when a group of Sunnyvale neighbors suing the family of an autistic boy for being a public nuisance were in a San Jose Superior Court Tuesday morning.

They've filed a lawsuit against next door neighbors Vidyut Gopal and Parul Agrawal over their 11-year-old son's alleged behavior over the years.

After a morning of courtroom drama and tension, Gopal, the father of the autistic boy spoke briefly about the possibility of reaching a settlement.

"We are glad the judge ordered the judicial settlement conference," he told waiting reporters. "Thank you very much."

Neighbors Robert Flowers, Kumaran Santhanam and his wife Bindu Pothen are the plaintiffs suing the Gopal family. They want to declare the 11-year-old autistic boy a public nuisance.

They say the boy has hit, slapped, and kicked, their younger children when the parents or sitters weren't around.

The neighbors on the quiet cul-de-sac say they've tried repeatedly to work with the boy's parents to make sure he's properly supervised, but the attacks kept happening.

Tuesday the judge told everyone court to take a time out, saying she was dismayed at the way the case was going.

The judge told them they were 'smart, creative people,' who should set a good example for their kids, and work it out like adults.

"I don't blame her, I think this case should've been handled in a different way a long time ago," said Flowers. "I regret that it's gotten to this point. We never wanted it to get to this point."

All parties have agreed to go to mediation in hopes of reaching a settlement.

When asked if he felt it needed to get to this point, plaintiff Bindu Pothen seemed positive.

"I feel like we had been trying to communicate and come up with a permanent safety solution for a long time, and this might be what we needed," he said.

"I'm very optimistic," added Santhanam. "I really look forward to meeting with Judge Walsh and hope we can all work together for a positive outcome."

The plaintiffs are fighting for the release of the boy's medical and school records.

Jill Escher, President of the Autism Society of San Francisco called the request extreme and egregious. She said it could set a dangerous precedent.

"If they do something that someone in the community disapproves of or fears, all of a sudden their entire lives all their private lives, their therapy records, their school records -- all of that would open for public consumption?"

Tuesday, the judge ordered everybody to meet with a settlement judge next month. If they cannot iron out their differences, then the case will proceed to trial in November.

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