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I have a healthy, large, fairly well maintained tree in my…

Customer Question
I have a healthy...

I have a healthy, large, fairly well maintained tree in my front yard. Only a few branches hang over my neighbor's property line because most have been trimmed away. But one branch fell onto my neighbor's car, damaging it. Am I required to pay their $500 deductible?

Lawyer's Assistant: Is there an easement or public access on the property line?

No.

Lawyer's Assistant: Where is the property located?

Memphis, TN

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

I think that's it.

Submitted: 10 months ago.Category: Real Estate Law
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Answered in 5 minutes by:
7/30/2017
Real Estate Lawyer: Ray, Lawyer replied 10 months ago
Ray
Ray, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 47,723
Experience: Texas Attorney for 30 years dealing in real estate
Verified

Hi and welcome to JA. Ray here to help you today.Please bear with me a few moments while I review your question, conduct and prepare your response.

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Customer reply replied 10 months ago
Thanks.
Real Estate Lawyer: Ray, Lawyer replied 10 months ago

Generally, the landowner on whose property a tree grows

will be held to a duty of care, determined by principles of negligence.

Common prudence in tree maintenance is expected to prevent injury or damage to a neighbor’s property.

A landowner with constructive or actual knowledge of a

patently defective condition of a tree is liable for damages, injury

or death caused by that tree. Knowledge of the condition is always

difficult to determine. Some cases, however, have held landowners

to a higher standard (greater duty) of inspection to discover pos-

sible defective conditions of a tree to prevent the tree from causing

problems. Tree owners in urban areas have a duty to inspect each

and every tree on the premises to determine hazard trees and have

them removed. In rural areas, there is no duty to inspect natural

trees, but if you know or should have known hazardous trees exist,

liability has held for natural trees in these areas.

Landowners are not typically liable for “Acts of God.”

An Act of God is an inevitable accident that could not have been

prevented by human care, skill and foresight, but which results

exclusively from nature’s cause, such as lightning, storms and

floods. A landowner will not escape liability for damages caused

by an unsound or defective tree located on his/her property. It is

not an Act of God if it could have been prevented by the exercise

of reasonable diligence or ordinary care.

In short, a landowner will not be responsible for those inju-

ries strictly arising out of an Act of God. If however, the injury

could have been prevented by reasonable diligence or ordinary care

or was an injury contributed to by human agency, the landowner

will not be entitled to the Act of God defense and will be liable.

Unless the tree was dead here or the limb then you are not liable this is considered an act of god.

I appreciate the chance to help you tonight.Thanks again.

If you can positive rate 5 stars it is much appreciated.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Ray, Lawyer replied 10 months ago

BriefSummary: The short answer is that in Tennessee a homeowner is generally not responsible for damage caused by their healthy tree that falls onto the property of another and causes damage. The only time the premises owner could be responsible is if the tree is causing a nuisance or encroaching on the neighbor’s property.

Reference

http://www.tennesseedefenselitigation.com/BlogEntry.aspx?id=118

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Customer reply replied 10 months ago
I notice that this response has been cut and pasted from an article generated by the University of Tennessee. Here is the article. https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/SP687.pdf
I studied it extensively before asking my question here.
Can you comment briefly on GLORIA B. LANE V. W.J. CURRY & SONS, which makes this ambiguous statement: [trees] may be regarded as a nuisance when they cause actual harm or pose an imminent danger of actual harm to adjoining property.
My concern is about the word "when." Does that mean it becomes a nuisance AFTER the fact of the initial damage, meaning I likely would be responsible only for future property damages? Or does it suggest the tree is a nuisance BECAUSE it caused damage, thus making me responsible for damages at any point in its life? I think this is the crux of the matter. Thanks.
Real Estate Lawyer: Ray, Lawyer replied 10 months ago

Gloria B. Lane v. W.J. Curry & Sons

Gloria B. Lane v. W.J. Curry & Sons

W2000-01580-SC-R11-CV

We granted review in this case to determine whether a landowner can bring a nuisance action against an adjoining landowner when tree branches and roots from the adjoining landowner's property encroach upon and damage the neighboring landowner's property. The plaintiff asserts that encroaching branches and roots from the defendant's trees constitute a nuisance for which she is entitled to seek damages. The defendant responds that the plaintiff's sole remedy is self-help and, therefore, the plaintiff may not recover for any harm caused by the defendant's trees. The trial court and Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant, and held that an adjoining landowner's only remedy is self-help and that a nuisance action cannot be brought to recover for harm caused by encroaching tree branches and roots. We have determined that self-help is not the sole remedy of an adjoining landowner and that a nuisance action may be brought when tree branches and roots from the adjacent property encroach upon and damage the neighboring landowner's property. Although encroaching trees and plants are not nuisances merely because they cast shade, drop leaves, flowers, or fruit, or just because they encroach upon adjoining property either above or below the ground, they may be regarded as a nuisance when they cause actual harm or pose an imminent danger of actual harm to adjoining property. If so, the owner of the tree or plant may be held responsible for harm caused by it and may also be required to cut back the encroaching branches or roots, assuming the encroaching vegetation constitutes a nuisance. We do not, however, alter existing Tennessee law that the adjoining landowner may, at his own expense, cut away the encroaching vegetation to the property line whether or not the encroaching vegetation constitutes a nuisance or is otherwise causing harm or potential harm to the adjoining property. We further find that the record in this case is sufficient to establish liability for nuisance. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the trial court's dismissal of the case is reversed. The case is remanded to the trial court for a determination of damages and other appropriate relief.

This case does not necessarily make you liable here.Arguably the tree was healthy the branch falling was an act of god.The neighbor assumed that risk by parking under it.It is possible here that your homeowners if you have it would cover the deductible since the tree is on your property.You could report it to them and then you don't have to deal with the neighbor.Let them sort it out.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Ray, Lawyer replied 10 months ago
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Real Estate Lawyer: Ray, Lawyer replied 10 months ago

Again it was a healthy tree, the case above states Although encroaching trees and plants are not nuisances merely because they cast shade, drop leaves, flowers, or fruit, or just because they encroach upon adjoining property either above or below the ground, they may be regarded as a nuisance when they cause actual harm or pose an imminent danger of actual harm to adjoining property.I am not sure your tree would come under this at all.

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Customer reply replied 10 months ago
Great. Thank you.
Real Estate Lawyer: Ray, Lawyer replied 10 months ago

You are so welcome,thanks again and thanks for rating 5 stars.

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