Standing: Can anyone file a lawsuit?

June 5th, 2018 - Lisa M. Keeler

Recently, the Washington Court of Appeals dismissed a case filed by a lot owner on behalf of a homeowners’ association because the person lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. The owner was claiming impact on or damage to a retention pond by a neighboring developer. But the court found the individual lot owner within a homeowner’s association (HOA) does not have standing to bring a claim that belonged to the HOA. Specifically, the owner was not a member of the HOA at the time of the alleged transgression, she didn’t show actual injury to herself or her land, she did not get authority to act for the HOA or put it on notice about her concerns, and there was no indication the HOA was prevented from protecting its own interests. Her case was dismissed. (Jevne v. The Pass, LLC, — Wn. App. —, — P.3d — (Div. III, No. 34939-0-III, May 10, 2018.))

So what is standing? Standing is a jurisdictional issue. If you don’t have standing, you can’t bring a case in court. Or if you file a case, it can be dismissed at any time. Standing is a person’s right to make a legal claim or seek to enforce a duty or right, or sometimes the right to bring a claim to protect the rights of others. It comes from the Latin locus standi, meaning place of standing or place for standing.

To have standing, you must be within the protected zone of interests and have suffered an actual injury (an injury in fact). Basically, do you have a real, present, substantial interest in the subject matter of the lawsuit, and can you accrue a benefit if granted the relief you seek?

Some statutes specifically give a person standing to bring an action. For example, any person may petition a court to ask that an alleged incapacitated person be provided a guardian to manage their personal and/or financial affairs. RCW 11.88.030(1). Any person may petition the court alleging that a child is abandoned, abused or neglected, or has no parent capable of caring for them, and needs to be dependent on/protected by the court. RCW 13.34.040.

Bottom-line: you need to make sure you’re allowed to bring a case if you want any chance of succeeding.

Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.

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