A man hurt by a falling tree limb in Central Park sued the city and the Central Park Conservancy for negligence, as reported in the New York Times. The 33-year-old man was walking alone in the park when a heavy tree limb crashed down on him from about 36 feet above, causing severe injuries. He remains hospitalized. After further examination of the tree limb, it became apparent that the branch was thoroughly dead and rotten and posed a danger for a long time prior to the accident. The city and the Central Park Conservancy should have been aware of and removed the branch, as they are responsible for maintaining the park. A member of the city’s Law Department remarked on the tragic nature of the case and assured that the legal papers were being thoroughly reviewed.
These tree cases can be very tricky. Years ago, I handled a tree fall case in West Virginia. The case took on a life of its own as it turned out that the tree was on a power company easement, located on private property, adjacent to a road. The most important thing in these cases is to have a good survey indicating where exactly the tree was located, a good title search to confirm any easements and liability and a preservation of the tree or limb. As you might imagine, these cases are hard fought and can also be complicated by applicable laws related to the duty of potentially responsible public entities, as well.