Page 50 - Southington Magazine Holiday 2019
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Southington Magazine — Holiday 2019
Attorney Paul Bedard
The Legal Shift Regarding Liability for Falling Trees
For decades, Connecticut case law indicated that the owner of a tree that falls onto a neighbor’s property is not liable for damages unless the tree’s owner was aware that the tree was a potential hazard. However, multiple Superior Court cases over the past few years have ruled that no liability exists regardless of whether the owner knew that the tree might be hazardous.
In a 2016 Superior Court case, private landowners sued when a tree on adjoining bank- owned property fell onto their shed. The bank- owned property was listed for sale during this period. Prior to the tree falling, the plaintiffs had complained to the defendant’s real estate agent that the tree was decayed and in dangerous and unsafe condition. The real estate agent documented this by taking photos. One month after notification of the tree’s decaying condition, the defendant’s tree fell onto the plaintiffs’ shed. The plaintiffs argued that the defendant knew or should have known of the dangerous condition of the tree and that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care by not removing the tree. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, finding that the tree on the defendant’s property was a natural condition of the land.
A 2017 Superior Court case involved a rotting tree limb falling from a tree located within a condominium complex onto a car legally parked on adjoining property. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant was negligent for failing to properly inspect the tree and for failing to remedy a
dangerous and defective condition. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was owed no duty of care because the tree was a naturally occurring feature of the land. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, declaring that the tree was a natural condition upon the defendant’s land.
Earlier this year, another Superior Court case addressed this issue. In this case, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants allowed a heavily wooded wetlands portion of their land to grow to great heights and with overgrown branches, causing the trees to become top-heavy and unstable before damaging the plaintiffs’ property. The plaintiffs argued that the defendants had a duty to care for the trees to prevent them from falling on the plaintiffs’ property, and further argued that the defendants were reckless for failing to remove the overgrown trees. Following the recent line of cases, the court ruled for the defendants and found that no cause of action for damage attributable to falling trees between private landowners exists in Connecticut.
Connecticut case law does indicate that a property owner who is concerned about a neighbor’s tree may clear any encroaching roots and branches up to their property line. The neighbor who owns the tree also has the right to address any encroaching aspects of their tree. However, care must be taken in this regard. A Connecticut statute prohibits destroying trees on another’s private or public land. Anyone who

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