New York City wisely decided to cut down a gigantic city-owned tree. If the tree or its branches had fallen and killed anyone, a wrongful death lawsuit would most certainly have been filed. Family and friends would be grieving for loved ones whose deaths could have been prevented. A personal injury caused by a fallen tree is often preventable if the tree is properly maintained.
Queens residents Valerie and Marie Dinkins had fought for years to have the tree in their front yard cut down. They were anxious and fearful that the oversize silver maple would come crashing down on their Jamaica house. The tree was riddled with brittle branches and bark. One of the tree’s limbs fell through their patio awning in October, and the tree was hollow enough for raccoons and possums, according to the New York Daily News (4.9.15), citing court papers filed in Queens Supreme Court.
The Parks Department finally decided to cut down the tree “just hours after” the New York Daily News ran a story about it on April 9. Thankfully it wasn’t a death that compelled them to chop it.
If a person is hurt in a tree accident, the property owner or other entity that maintains and controls either the trees or the property may be sued.
A number of people have filed suit against New York City for deaths or injuries caused by falling limbs and branches. Many of these were quietly resolved or wound their way through the courts. According to The New York Times, the city has paid millions of dollars in damage claims.
Tree accident injuries usually fall under the legal category of premises liability. Premises liability allows victims to hold property owners liable for injuries that occur on their property since property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. If a tree on public property injures someone, it must be proven that the government or local entity failed to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and-or failed to correct or warn of a danger that the government knew or should have known existed.
The Dinkinses had repeatedly written letters to the Parks Department in the attempts to get the tree cut down before filing the lawsuit, reported the New York Daily News.
If a victim of a tree accident is successful in establishing liability and the defendant is held accountable for the injuries, the victim may recover damages, including medical expenses and lost wages.
According to the Parks Department, Con Edison would trim the branches that reach up into the street’s power lines before taking the rest of the trunk down, reported the tabloid.