Here are some photos and brief descriptions of some of the tree-related cases I've worked on:
Potential hidden defects
It’s possible that this tree that caused a fatality to the driver of the car appeared to be “healthy.” Or it’s possible that someone should have noticed that the canopy seemed to be in poor condition and asked an expert for a tree risk assessment. This photo shows obvious root system decay and rotting, but that may be considered a “hidden defect” if the canopy was in good condition. In some cases, we can find photos of the tree before the casualty — sometimes on Google Maps or Bing Maps — to see how the canopy looked before the tree failed.
Proof a tree was dying
A homeowner building a new house sued three separate parties claiming that they caused the death of a large oak tree on the side of their house. I found this photo that the plaintiff submitted in their filing, which was taken in the summer on the very first day of construction. It shows that even though the trees in the rear of the house had plenty of foliage, the subject tree was actually dying at the time. When this tree was cut down, it was quite hollow and exhibited symptoms of root rot, while other trees in the background had full green foliage.
Trespassing for a better view
A homeowner near Mount Vernon, Virginia had hundreds of trees cut down on neighboring properties that he did not own to get a better view of the Potomac River. This was trespassing, of course, so the owner was liable for the tree replacement value. Because it’s impossible to actually replace hundreds of large trees, it is possible to use various cost compounding formulas to estimate the costs over the time required to replace the lost canopy.
Obstructed view causes fatality
Both a private homeowner and a township were involved in this case where the branches of a tree grew so large that they obstructed a stop sign. A young couple on a motorbike failed to see the stop sign, resulting in one fatality and one serious injury. This type of case shows that property owners and property managers have a duty to inspect their trees and bushes for safety.
.When building a new house, the contractors decided to saw off the roots of a very large poplar tree that was actually on the next-door property. The roots had extended beyond the property line so no trespass was involved. In many states, it’s permissible to cut roots and branches that encroach onto one's property, but care must be taken not to cause tree damage or failure. Sometimes trees can survive severe root loss, but in other cases it will topple over like this one – even years after the roots are cut.
Hundreds of mature evergreen screen plantings around a commercial property were damaged and/or destroyed as a result of the improper mixing and application of a concentrated liquid fertilizer that was sprayed on them. This photo shows a small portion of damaged and destroyed plantings around the property.
The family of two women who were killed in the middle of the night by the failure of this large oak tree noticed what they thought were mushrooms growing around a tree, indicating signs of tree decay. As it turns out, these growths were not mushrooms at all, but mushroom-like growths called conks. There were, however, small white mushrooms growing on the lawn that do not cause wood decay.
Triple damages from trespassing
The neighbor on the right did not like the limbs and leaves growing over his driveway so he cut them off. But he went too far and actually trespassed as he cut limbs over the property line. In Maryland and some other states, triple damages can be awarded in tree trespass situations like this one.
This large tree fell onto a neighbor's house on a stormy night and actually hit the house twice — once when it fell and again when a cable broke during the removal process. This was a case of a tree failing because of root decay – even though the canopy foliage seemed to be in good condition before the tree fell.