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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 33763
Experience:  Began practicing law in 1992
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The Horry county owns a drainage ditch and property next to

Customer Question

The Horry county owns a drainage ditch and property next to my home. The hurricane took down a tree that landed in the drainage ditch. The county will take care of that. However there is a 65 foot pine tree that is about to fall on my property and will do damage and also could kill someone if it lands on a person. They said they do nothing until the tree falls. Are they liable for the damage to my property when it falls?
JA: Because real estate law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: South Carolina
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: We have called Horry county three times. They just say they will remove the tree from the ditch. They will not do anything with the tree that hasn't fallen yet.
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 10 months ago.

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today.

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Horry county owns a drainage ditch and property next to my home. The hurricane took down a tree that landed in the drainage ditch. The county will take care of that. However there is a 65 foot pine tree that is about to fall on my property and will do damage and also could kill someone if itlands on a person. They said they do nothing until the tree falls. Are they liable for the damage to my property when it falls?
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 10 months ago.

Unfortunately, the county faces very little potential liability due to a concept of law called "sovereign immunity". It is an antiquated concept and comes from the idea that you couldn't "sue the king".

In this country, they continued that concept and applied it to the various governmental entities such as the federal state, and local governments.

Many states, SC included, have passed a limited exception to this known as the Tort Claims Act but it only allows someone to sue the government im very limited circumstances and a tree falling and causing damages isn't one of those. You can see the statute on this topic at http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t15c078.php

I will post more below...

Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 10 months ago.

WHat you may want to consider is getting a local lawyer to write them a letter putting this issue into terms of their infringing on your civil rights, which is an automatic exemption from the immunity. You need to be aware that it probably does not really classify as a civil rights violation but the county government may not be willing to take a chance if they can solve the problem by cutting down a leaning tree.

Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 10 months ago.

Also, in addition to these defenses there is also the common law defense of "act of god" which they can use if a high wind or hurricane blows the tree over.

Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 10 months ago.

If your question has been answered then I'd offer my best wishes to you and ask that you please not forget to leave a Positive Rating so I receive credit for my work. Of course, please feel free to ask any follow up questions in this thread. I want to be sure that all of your questions are answered.