Who’s responsible when a falling tree injures someone?
It’s a question I’ve been getting in response to sad news out of Pasadena, where a 75-year-old Pine tree collapsed on a group of children who were on a field trip with their local summer camp. Eight children were injured, two critically.
My own 7-year-old daughter was with her camp at the scene of this accident earlier that day, and I join the community in wishing the injured campers a speedy recovery.
According to Pasadena’s certified arborist, the tree exhibited no symptoms of decay that should’ve caused concerns. Further tests will have to be performed to see what caused the mammoth tree to collapse.
Most cities have departments dedicated to tree maintenance. In Los Angeles, it would be the Urban Forestry Division. Some cities contract tree maintenance to private tree service companies.
A tree that belongs to the city is the city’s responsibility. That means if a city-owned tree falls and hurts someone, the city could potentially be liable, just as it could if a city-owned vehicle injured someone.
An injured plaintiff would need to prove negligence on the part of the city. In other words, did the city fail to properly maintain the tree? Did city officials miss potential warning signs that the tree was unhealthy? Could something have been done to prevent this accident?
These are the kinds of questions that would need to be answered through litigation.
Let’s hope no more trees fall and injure anyone.
If you see a tree that causes you concern, report it to city officials. There’s even an app for that in Los Angeles!
For questions about your case or other legal issues, the Rabbi Lawyer is one phone call away!