If a Tree Falls on a Fence

During storms like this weekend’s Hurricane Irene, trees often fall from people’s yards into their neighbors’. Which raises the question: is the person whose tree fell into her neighbor’s yard is liable for any resulting damage? The answer varies somewhat from state to state. But as a general rule, the owner of the tree is not liable in such cases unless he or she was somehow negligent in caring for it. If a “reasonable person” could foresee that the tree or a branch was likely to fall and cause damage that the owner could have readily prevented, there might be liability. In most cases, however, the owner is not liable, especially if the tree was knocked over by an “act of God” like a storm. Findlaw has a helpful explanation here, as well as a discussion of other property law issues arising from trees.

Even if you believe you do have a good case against your neighbor, you should think carefully before you start a lawsuit over a fallen tree. Given the high cost of litigation, the money you win might not be much more than what you end up paying the lawyers — unless the damage is really severe. The loss of time and aggravation inherent in suing are also relevant costs, even if nonmonetary ones. And then there’s the cost of damaging your relationship with your neighbor, which is especially important if you plan to live in the neighborhood for a long time. In most cases, it’s worth trying to settle your dispute with a neighbor informally instead of going to court.

As an attorney, it’s probably against my interest to encourage people to think twice about suing over minor property disputes. But it’s good advice nonetheless. And part of being a good property lawyer is knowing when to tell your client that a lawsuit may not be the best course of action for them.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Recent Articles

tim-coffield-attorney-virginia-title-nine
Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education: Title IX Prohibits Retaliation for Opposing Sex Discrimination in Education
October 20, 2020
Tim-coffield-attorney-construction-law-virginia
Virginia General Contractor Wage Law: Wage Protections for Construction Workers
October 20, 2020
Whistleblower Laws
Virginia Whistleblower Protection Law: Broad Protections for Whistleblowers
September 22, 2020

Disclaimer

The information you obtain at this site is not legal advice, is not intended to be legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Parts of this site may be considered attorney advertising. If you have questions about any particular issue or problem, you should contact your attorney. Coffield PLC and attorney Tim Coffield welcome your calls, emails, and contact forms. Contacting Coffield PLC or Tim does not create an attorney-client relationship.