Swanson vs. Warner

865 P.2d 493 (1993)

A single tree is not a hedge or row of trees.

Property dispute regarding entitlement to a view decided by the Oregon Court of Appeals en banc. Warner’s planted a mimosa tree in their front yard – it grew. Swanson, the next door neighbor, sued the Warners claiming a violation of restrictive covenants (HOA rules) governing the local neighborhood, and nuisance because the tree blocked his view. The court strictly construed the wording of the restrictive covenants which provided that “no hedge or row of trees or shrubs shall be planted or maintained which shall substantially block the view of any adjoining lot.”

The Court held: “Here, the covenant prohibits the planting of a “row of trees.” Not even plaintiffs argue that a single tree is a “row of trees,” at least not as those words are commonly understood. Instead, they argue that the words “row of trees” should be construed more broadly than their plain and ordinary meaning to accommodate the broader purposes of the covenant. That, however, is precisely the sort of “enlargement” of restrictive covenants “by construction” that is not permitted.”

Almost everything we do—from making a purchase, to driving a car, to interacting with others—is affected by the law in some way. But clearly we don’t need a lawyer for all of these everyday interactions. When do you need a lawyer? When can (or should) you handle a matter on your own? Some problems are not really legal—or are not exclusively legal—and can be handled, at least in part, with the help of psychologists, the clergy or other counselors. But many problems do have a legal dimension and require a lawyer’s help. The following questions and answers provide guidance.

  I think I might benefit from speaking to a lawyer, but I don’t think I have a current legal dispute. Does this means I shouldn’t get an attorney? Get in the Leppard Law site.  
No. In fact, lawyers often help clients in matters that have nothing to do with disputes. For example, people might seek their lawyer’s advice on legal aspects of starting a business or engaging in a partnership, when buying or selling a home, or for information and advice on tax matters or estate planning. Some clients receive regular legal checkups that, like medical checkups, are designed to catch problems early or prevent them altogether.

 I understand that going to a lawyer may be unnecessary under certain circumstances. Are there specific cases when I should see a lawyer?  
Yes, some matters are best handled by a lawyer. While these matters are sometimes hard to recognize, nearly everyone agrees that you should talk with a lawyer about major life events or changes, which might include:

  If I do not use a lawyer, who else can help me?  
There are many ways to solve a grievance without resorting to lawyers. If you believe a business has cheated you, you may get help from a consumer protection agency run by your city, county, state, or federal government. Many businesses, stores, and utility companies have their own departments to help resolve consumer complaints. Some communities have an ombudsman, a government official whose job is to mediate and resolve minor landlord/tenant, consumer, or employment issues. Local television and radio stations may have programs to resolve consumer-related disputes.

Most states also have dispute resolution centers. These centers, which may be known as neighborhood justice centers or citizens’ dispute settlement programs, specialize in helping people who have common problems and disputes. Their services are often available for a small fee, or even at no cost.