What is our neighbor’s liability for damage that hecaused to our retaining wall in our backyard?

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2011

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What is our neighbor’s liability for damage that hecaused to our retaining wall in our backyard?

My neighbor drained his pool down my backyard and caused our retaining wall made of rail-road ties to buckle. My neighbor advised me that 2 of the ties needed to be replaced. Is my neighbor obligated to pay for the ties regardless of what original condition they were in or is there a percentage law for that type of adjustment? All of our other retaining wall are fine. Our neighbor is claiming that its not his fault they rotted, however, as I said the others are holding well. I would have not had any problems had he not drained water down my landscaping hill for 2 summers.

Asked on September 15, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Utah


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The issue is probably causality, and whether or how you can prove it. As a general matter, if property owner A either negligently (that is, unreasonably carelessly) or deliberately/intentionally causes damage to property owner B's property, A should be liable, or financially responsible, for the damage. Draining a pool onto another's land would seem to be either an intentional wrongful act or at least negligent. However, even with a basis for liability, a person is only liable if the act actually caused the injury or damage or loss complained of. So while it seems that your neighbor has acted wrongfully, what is critical in determining whether he is liable or not is causality--did the draining of the water cause the ties to rot and the buckling? From what you write it  may well be the case; but if the neighbor disagrees and won't pay voluntarily, to recoup your money, you'd need to sue him and then prove the causation in court.

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