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by Kris Reid  May 19, 2010 7:04 am

On March 23, two big branches of city (Palo Alto, CA) owned tree in our front yard fell and smashed my windshield. It also caused dents all over my car. My neighbor across the street witnessed the whole thing and were not only shocked about what they saw and heard, but also worried that their two little boys could get hurt as they play on this quiet street a lot. It worries me as I also have two little kids. We took the advice from the neighbor to file a claim against city for the cost of damage repair.
After two months, we received a letter from city and its “claims adjuster” consultant indicating our claim is rejected. Here is what said in the letter:

“We have received the report we requested from the City’s Tree Department. That report indicates that the City had no notice of dangerous condition of the tree. The City did not cause the tree limb to fall and had no way of knowing that it would fall. Based on these facts, your claim is denied.”…

What should we do? Is it fair? Thx!
Thanks much for your answers. If City is not responsible for any damage caused by city-owned trees, and I cannot get rid of the tree because it’s city-owned, what should I do to protect my property as we all know it will fall again sooner or later. This time is my car and hopefully my little kids will never get hurt because of the tree.
I thought I would only use my car insurance when I am the one causing accident (or to cover those without insurance). Why should I use my insurance for this incident?
Thanks again.

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5 Comments

  1. by Mr. Goodhi © May 19, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Hire a lawyer & sue the city.

  2. by Mark K May 19, 2010 at 8:13 am

    That should be covered by your insurance… not the city.

  3. by Steve B May 19, 2010 at 8:37 am

    If you watch the Judge Judy or The People’s Court you will see the same outcome. Trees fall. It ii no one’s fault. Unless it really looks like the tree will fall.

    Do you have car insurance?

  4. by queen May 19, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Tree limbs falling is usually considered an “act of nature” and not preventable, so the tree’s owner is not liable.

    Your car insurance should pay for it.

    Is this fair? No.

    EDIT: Hui–
    You can have the tree serviced at your own expense. Any limbs overhanging your property can be removed, and reshaping can be done, I believe, to promote safety. If dead and dying limbs are removed, they’re less likely to fall.

    I know this stinks. There’s a humungous oak tree leaning over my house, but not on my property. I paid to have it pruned because the owners (a golf course) weren’t interested in doing it. I didn’t like paying the bill, but I like the increased peace of mind.

  5. by verybizzy2000 May 19, 2010 at 9:11 am

    “If City is not responsible for any damage caused by city-owned trees, and I cannot get rid of the tree because it’s city-owned, what should I do to protect my property as we all know it will fall again sooner or later.”

    No – you are misconstruing the law. In order for a property owner to be held liable for dangerous conditions on their property, they must first have notice of the dangerous condition, and then have a reasonable amount of time to correct it.

    They denied your claim because they recognize that if you filed a lawsuit, you would not be able to prove they had notice of the dangerous condition.

    To remedy this going forward, you should send them a certified letter advising them that the tree represents a dangerous hazard. Once they are on written notice, they are more apt to take action and do something because if something does happen afterward, they can be sued and will lose.

    You must notify them in writing — most municipalities have ordinances that say they cannot be held liable unless they had “written notice”. This is particularly true with sidewalks.

    “I thought I would only use my car insurance when I am the one causing accident (or to cover those without insurance). Why should I use my insurance for this incident?”

    Liability insurance is for when it’s your fault. But many people carry “collision” insurance that covers when an accident is their fault or nobody’s fault.

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