LIHUE — A Wailua Homesteads man allergic to bees is suing his beekeeping neighbor after twice being stung by a bee and rushed to the hospital.
There’s no difference “between a bullet and a bee,” Luis Soltren said in court on Monday, describing the dangers of living next to swarms of honey bee when he is allergic to them.
“When someone is allergic to bees,” he said. “They can kill them.”
Twice, Soltren said he was poked and rushed to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. The stings and the roughly $2,000 in hospital bills are part of a small claims suit he filed against his neighbor, Jesse Castro.
Soltren blamed Castro, who used to keep “more than 1,000” bees on the property next to Soltren’s home, for the stings.
“Those honey bees are very aggressive,” Soltren said. “They protect their hive.”
But Castro, a Kauai police officer, said it wasn’t his bees who stung Soltren. He said the Homesteads neighborhood is home to hundreds of swarms, and that his bees were in their boxes at the time of the June 15, 2014 stinging. The bees that pierced Soltren on the face appeared to be swarming — the process by which bees make a new home — which was not the case with Castro’s bees, who were in their homes at the time.
It was after the sting that Castro learned that his neighbor was allergic, he said. He then made plans to remove the bees, which Soltren had complained about to the county for being unpermitted in the residential neighborhood.
“We did comply with the law,” Castro said about getting rid of the hives once he learned of his neighbor’s allergy and rules that he needed proper permitting. “We made arrangements” to have them removed.
The small claims case seeks damages up to $5,000. Besides the bee sting bill, Soltren is seeking reimbursement for a fence he put up between the neighbors’ yards. He said the agreement had the neighbors splitting the bill, while Castro’s defense said they hadn’t agreed to the deal.
Besides the 2014 stinging, Soltren said he was stung originally in 2011 and that Castro knew of his allergy then, which Castro denied. Soltren said his neighbor let his bees out intentionally after Soltren complained about his unpermitted operation.
“They’re negligent,” said Soltren, who represented himself in court, which resulted in Judge Sara Silverman interrupting him several times to remind him of proper court procedure as well as multiple objections from defense attorney Patrick Childs, who at one point called Soltren’s questioning “this Perry Mason thing.”
Castro said he used to get along with Soltren, even bringing him honey from the hives, but his neighbor turned sour after Castro declined to invest in one of Soltren’s properties. What’s more, Castro said, Soltren sprayed and killed the bees that had swarmed his house, and Castro’s bees didn’t die off, meaning the attackers weren’t his.
Silverman continued the case to June 26, telling both sides she wanted the matter wrapped up by then.
“The next time we are meeting in this courtroom, we are finishing this,” she said of the dispute that has spread over several court days. “That’s it.”
Childs said the defense plans to call one expert witness when they pick up the matter.
“It’s just painful,” he said after court about the two sides’ relationship. “They’re unhappy neighbors.”