Does Your Tree Need An Attorney?

By: Paul Markworth, Consulting Arborist

Winter 2003 Newsletter in Adobe PDF format Does your tree need an attorney? This may seem like a funny question, and it is. The real question is, “Will you need an attorney because of the condition of your tree?”

In the past year, several attorneys have retained me as an expert witness for an opinion as to whether or not a tree’s owner should have known their tree was hazardous. All these cases came about because all or a part of a tree failed, usually in moderate winds, and caused property damage to a neighboring property.

A legal action where I recently gave testimony involved a perfectly sound limb that was twisted off during a thunderstorm and damaged a neighbor’s boat. In this incident, the trunk of the tree was missing large sections of bark and in questionable condition. The court ruled that since the trunk was hazardous the tree should have been removed prior to the storm. Thus the tree’s owner was liable for the damage to the neighbor’s boat. The court’s reasoning was that a prudent person would have dealt with the tree long before the storm and thus, the boat would not have been damaged.

The significance of this is that the courts expect you to inspect your trees on a regular basis and if you see anything questionable to call a qualified arborist to give advice and remedy the situation if need be. Remember, if your tree causes harm to others, and they can prove that you knew or should have known your tree was “hazardous,” you could very well be liable.

© Copyright 2003 – Wachtel Tree Science & Service, Inc.

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