Neighbor Disputes


The playwright who wrote “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (to my surprise, it wasn’t Shakespeare) never saw two Northern California neighbors go at each other over boundary line disputes or easement disputes or right-of-way disputes involving their $700,000+ homes, or the patio or fence dispute or tree trunk dispute or tree branch dispute (branches etc. intruding from one yard to the neighboring yard). Disputes over even inches of neighboring lands can be more bitter than child custody disputes, and as I point out in my general comments on dispute resolutions elsewhere on this site, the wrong lawyers can run up huge fees by stoking the fires of such disputes.

But these disputes, like so many other kinds of disputes, often afford the potential for creative resolution by negotiations (whether the warring neighbors now hate each other or not) because each neighbor may now have ‘things’ about that neighbor’s property which he or she may not need but which the disputing neighbor may want. A judge or an arbitrator (‘private judge’ paid for by the disputing parties) will be faced with very narrow solutions set by legal rules, in terms of awards of money or orders for certain kinds or actions or refraining from actions.

As in my work in other kinds of disputes, I prepare to show my client’s opponent and his or her attorney the ‘pain’ that my client’s opponent can suffer if he or she goes forward in a lawsuit or arbitration (mounting attorney fees and the never-absent possibility of defeat for the opponent in addition to mounting attorney fees), and I warn my client of the correspondingly similar ‘pain’ my client may suffer if we go forward in a lawsuit in court or an arbitration with an arbitrator (private judge hired by the parties at their expense). At the same time I am looking for a better solution by either negotiation between the attorneys or negotiation with the aid of a “wise village elder” mediator.