You are out for a stroll on a nice, but windy, spring day and suddenly, as you walk under a tree, a branch dislodges and falls on you, seriously injuring you. Is anyone liable for your injuries? Can you bring a New York personal injury lawsuit for injuries caused by a falling tree branch? After all, wasn't this a "natural" occurrence? No one is liable for that, right?!
The answer is (as is so often the case in New York personal injury law) "it depends". The owner of the property, or whoever is in control of the property, where the tree is growing MAY be liable for the tree branch accident if they "knew or should have known" that the tree was dead, rotten, or in poor condition. If an owner, or someone who controls the property, fails to remove a decaying, rotting or dead tree, or branches, and the tree or a branch falls and injures someone, or falls on a roadway and causes a car accident, he can be held liable.
Here's a recent example of a falling-tree branch injury that could, or could not, become a valid case, depending on the circumstances: A Brooklyn man was recently killed in Central Park when he was struck by a falling tree branch that snapped off under the weight of wet snow. As reported in the New York Times, the tree branch weighed over 100 pounds and struck him directly on the head. Could the City be held liable for this tragedy? It looks like a tough case. The New York Times reports that branches were falling down all across the City because of a heavy build-up of wet snow. Maybe even healthy branches were giving way under the weight of the snow. If the tree showed no obvious signs of decay, rot or death, then the City is most likely not liable.
Tree branches falling on people, roadways or cars is not as uncommon as you might think, and when this happens, it can cause catastrophic injuries such as cracked craniums, brain damage, or even death, as it did in this Central Park case.
Moral of the story: If you own trees near sidewalks or roadways, check them from time to time for rot, decay or death. Have a tree specialist examine them, too. Remove any decaying or rotten parts of the tree, and if the tree is dead or dying, get rid of the whole thing. You might save someone's life, and you might prevent a lawsuit. Also, if you or a loved one is injured by a falling tree or tree branch, call a New York personal injury lawyer for advice.