Falling Timber

Although trees add tremendous value to the landscape of a local park, they must be monitored and cared for properly, or they can become a liability.

Are you making sure your trees are safe?

Many property owners don’t realize that part of their legal duty in maintaining the premises in a safe, hazard-free condition includes trees.

A properly performed inspection of trees and implementation of a maintenance program can minimize the property owner’s exposure to expensive negligence lawsuits, reduce hazardous conditions, and preserve the landscape’s value.

Construction And Development Projects

Almost all community parks include trees, shrubs, and other plants. These “softscapes” add significant aesthetic and financial value to a project.

When property is under development, most of the focus is on infrastructure. Often overlooked, however, are existing trees and plants.

To the untrained eye, a tree may appear to be healthy, yet many trees have suffered damage from lightning, wind, construction activity, insects, disease, and even vandalism.

A healthy-looking tree can often be a dangerous tree–one waiting for the right combination of wind, rain, ice, or other circumstances to cause a tragedy.

It is imperative to protect these trees and plants during development to ensure their health and vigor so they do not become a liability due to damage sustained during construction. A potential, long-term problem can be lessened by spending time drawing up a tree-protection plan.

As a development progresses, hazardous trees are sometimes left standing. Trees are retained for various reasons, such as a call by zoning officials to “preserve trees,” a public outcry “to keep the beautiful tree,” a desire of an owner to “keep the budget down,” or ignorance regarding tree structure, biology, and the law.

Far too often project managers and property owners keep trees that present a potential for harm without realizing the possible consequences.

Trees And Negligence

Who is considered negligent?

A property owner may be considered negligent if he or she has a tree that falls and harms a person or damages property. Generally, the tree has to cause injury or damage for negligence to be claimed.

Often, courts take into consideration whether the property owner was acting as a “reasonable man” in the care of his trees. That “reasonable man” standard of care may be different for different jurisdictions.

An unhealthy tree can be a legal liability.

Inspection and maintenance of trees might be considered reasonable for a property owner. However, professionals may be held to a higher standard of knowledge if a hazardous tree goes undetected.

Whose Duty Is It?

Many states have recognized that, indeed, property owners have an expressed duty to inspect and maintain their trees. Attorneys have extended that responsibility to developers, builders, property managers, and other professionals who have agreed to “act in a property owner’s stead,” as they have included professionals in lawsuits.

Although some management development and construction agreements cover these matters, many do not. If you are acting as an agent for a property owner, make sure your contract defines responsibilities regarding tree inspections.

Page 1 of 4 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Transplanting Trees
  2. Planting For The Future
  3. To Tree Or Not To Tree?
  4. Tree Propagation
  5. Surveying The Land
  • Columns
  • Departments