Sue, sue, sue! Or, perhaps, try talking first


Dear John, I have two neighbors who live across the street. One is a nice elderly lady who does not leave her house very often. The other is a younger guy with a dog. The younger neighbor lets his dog out and it runs over and digs up the other lady's yard. I know she is upset about this, but she does not want to sue him. Can I sue for her?


Neighbor Nick


Basically, anyone can sue anyone for anything. However, there are rules about whether or not you will win your suit.

One of the rules is called "standing." To have standing in court means the person suing is the person who has actually been harmed.

Also, the harm has to be one that the court actually recognizes as a harm. Digging up a yard would be a harm. However, you are not the one who owns the yard. So, you do not have standing,

However, if your neighbor's suffering because of the damage to her yard makes you so upset that you are physically or mentally injured, you may get standing. This is very difficult to prove.

Often, in cases like these, the saying "good fences make good neighbors" fits.

Perhaps talking to your dog-owning neighbor would be a good thing to try.

Animals are supposed to be controlled by their owners. However, putting the dog in jail should be used as a last resort.

Hopefully you can work things out. Remember, animals digging in a yard can be a good way to improve the soil quality.



John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Any information given is to illustrate basic legal concepts and does not state how any court would decide any matter. Have a question? Ask John at


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