Dial Dalfred: Who’s responsible for fallen trees?

Dial Dalfred

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) One Lafayette woman is raising questions about how she’s responsible for damages and tree removal for her neighbor’s tree falling onto her property.

And, with another tree threatening her home she’s hoping something can be done.

The woman, who chooses not to use her name out of fear of retaliation, so we will call her Jane Doe, says she’s losing sleep at night especially when it rains.

Why? Because a towering water oak tree is leaning toward her house, from her neighbor’s backyard.

After the first tree wreaked havoc on her property back in April, she sent a certified letter to alert her neighbor of the threat a second tree posed. Doe says the tree is never maintained, and during Hurricane Delta, large branches came crashing down on the corner of her neighbor’s house. But it still made for a restless night for Jane Doe.

“Oh gosh, I didn’t sleep all night. We had no power and I’m so afraid every little sound that I heard I was afraid the tree was going to come down on my house.”

A major question remains to be answered: how is the victim responsible for damages made by a tree she doesn’t own?

Jim Donelon, Louisiana’s Insurance Commissioner said, “It goes back to the ’90s when then-Governor Mike Forster passed what he labeled, some would disagree, as Tort Reform.”

What that reform did was repeal strict liability, and would now only hold the tree owner responsible under certain circumstances.

“Your your tree falls on my property whether you’re liable or not depends upon whether the damage was caused by the neglect of the owner or if it was caused by what’s referred to as force major or act of God”, Regina Ramsey, Esq. Southern University Law Center Vice Chancellor for Institutional Accountability and Accreditation told us.

The tree owner can avoid being accountable for damages if they can prove the tree had been taken care of; for example, if the tree was trimmed or pruned, or an arborist did some type of annual inspection of the tree.

“Hurricane blows through, the tree still falls on the neighbors property, the landowner probably won’t be liable because it’s an act of God and the landowner exercised reasonable care such that the tree was well maintained”, Ramsey said.

As it relates to Jane Doe, she covered the cost of repairs for when the first tree fell and was reimbursed by her insurance company. By sending the letter and creating a paper trail, making the property owner aware of the threat of the second tree, the property owner will be responsible for damages if preventative measures are not taken.

If there’s an ongoing issue in your neighborhood or community or there’s a story you’d like me to investigate, send me an email at DialDalfred@klfy.com.

“The first one already fell on my property and took out half of my patio roof, put two holes in my shed, and almost demolished my fence.”

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