Trees are Pretty, but They Can be Pretty Dangerous, Too

August 3rd, 2016 by Attorney Julie Butcher

Many people think when part of a tree comes down, or the entire tree falls over, it’s a freak accident, bad luck, act of God or some combination thereof. That’s not necessarily the case, especially when the tree is in a public area where people could get hurt when all or part of the tree comes down. It may be due to the actions, or failure to act, of a negligent property owner.

It’s the responsibility of Kentucky property owners to maintain their trees if people are reasonably expected to come into contact with them. Owning a tree isn’t just about having pretty landscaping on an attractive property. Institutions and public entities have a duty to keep their property safe for foreseeable users.

Courts have found that property owners generally have a duty to inspect, maintain and, when necessary, remove limbs or trees if they are hazardous. The trees must be evaluated for their location, condition, size, likelihood of failure and risk of harm.

Property owners have a legal duty to protect visitors, workers and those passing by from hazardous conditions.

Because of this duty, property owners and managers remove snow and ice and fix parking lots. These efforts need to extend to their trees. If a party provides the public a picnic table under a lovely shade tree, they need to make sure the public isn’t at risk of injury when using it.

Here’s another way to look at it: A business open to the public must keep its manmade structures up to code and safe from dangerous defects in order to protect the public. Natural structures like trees are the same, only they may need to be monitored more often because, as natural, living things, the chance of decay or damage is greater than for a building.

If a property owner has trees where people may congregate, they need to inspect those trees for potential danger, especially if there are complaints or reports that a tree is diseased or damaged. If follow-up actions are performed negligently, there may also be liability; if a tree is improperly inspected, pruned or not removed, the danger may still remain or worsen or it may create a new danger to the public.

Property owners who act negligently when it comes to the upkeep of their trees may be held responsible for the injuries they cause.

The risks of injuries and deaths from dangerous trees is very real and very preventable. Depending on the circumstances, if someone is harmed by a diseased or damaged tree, it’s not a freak accident. It may have been an accident waiting to happen.

The responsibility for that accident and those injuries shouldn’t be shifted away from the negligent parties to that of chance, fate or God. Many of these accidents are foreseeable, maybe even predictable, if the responsible parties aren’t doing their jobs and protecting the public.

If you or a family member has been injured by a falling tree or limb in Kentucky, you can rely on the Julie Butcher Law Office, which has extensive experience handling the claims of those injured due to the negligence of property owners. Call us at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the circumstances of your case and how we might help you obtain justice.