We appreciate trees for their beauty, fruits and the shade they provide, as well as their place in the natural cycle, creating oxygen for us to breathe. One rarely considers the possibility of a tree becoming a killer. Every year, trees fall from wind and accidental collisions, collapse from internal structural issues or massive rains. On occasion, people lose their lives because they are nearby when a tree falls.
Unseen and Unavoidable?
Sometimes, simply driving under a canopy of boulevard trees can prove deadly. Such was the case in September 2011 in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, CA. Eucalyptus trees lining the streets contained hidden internal rot and disease, making them unstable and prone to collapse. A 29-year-old woman lost her life when one of those trees fell on her passing car.
Driver Haeyoon Miller died at the scene of blunt force injuries. Her parents claim the cities knew the trees could experience structural failure because other trees had collapsed in the past. Complicating the case is the cities’ decision to remove the remaining eucalyptus trees in the area following Miller’s death. The family alleges this action may have destroyed evidence that supports their case. They filed suit against the cities March 14, 2012, according to the Orange County Register News.
In another tragic incident, a huge maple tree fell on a family’s truck, trapping them inside for hours and killing their two-year-old son. The family was outside of a relative’s house at the time, and the tree fell without any warning. “Had they delayed one minute, had they delayed 30 seconds and been someplace they would have missed it,” Capt. Barry Stallard of the San Jose Fire Department reported in ABC local news affiliate, South Bay News, “But, it just so happens that they were here at that time.”
In this case, private landowners may be responsible for compensating the family for the wrongful death and other significant injuries the family suffered. “The sidewalk, the street tree, the curb and gutter, those are all…within the responsibility of the property owner to take care of,” explained San Jose Director of Transportation Hans Larsen. In this instance, heavy rains may have contributed to the collapse of the tree. The root structure of the tree was also compromised, perhaps because of a decision to confine the tree within a planter box.
Wrongful death and debilitating injury can happen at any time. The shock of losing a loved one to a sudden and unexpected occurrence like a falling tree can be overwhelming. If you or someone you love was hurt or killed by a falling tree, contact our office right away. While you may be eligible for compensation, the law limits the time available to file a claim for damages.