Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.
My neighbor’s cats damaged the cover and the liner of my above-ground pool. They put a hole in the liner and fell in and scratched the liner trying to get out. It will cost me $850.00 to repair. How can I ensure that my neighbor pays me back?
Your first step would be to request that your neighbor pay for the repairs. Avoiding a lawsuit will save everyone money. If he refuses, you can file a claim in small claims court. Generally speaking, the damage caused by a domesticated animal trespassing on your property falls under the legal principal of strict liability, which means your neighbors are liable for the damage regardless of any efforts they made to contain their cats. A court would likely award you with the cost of repairs.
Interestingly, if the cats had not survived their adventure and died in your pool, your neighbors may have been able to sue you for the replacement or vet care of their cats. Pets are personal property and you may have a responsibility for reducing foreseeable harm to them. You could certainly be held civilly liable (i.e. be sued) if you intentionally harmed or killed the cats. You may also be held civilly liable if you knew there was a life-threatening danger to the cats that you made no effort to reasonably reduce. This area of law can vary substantially depending on your location, but you may be wise to think of ways you can keep the cats from your pool. This will save you future frustration, and may protect you from a lawsuit.