Follow John Linkedin Twitter Facebook
Email John Email
Legal Issues
Oct 21, 2016

Who's Responsible For Damage From Storm Debris?

Sponsored Content provided by John Martin - Professional Liability and Medical Malpractice Defense Attorney, CSH Law

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, residents of Southeastern North Carolina have begun cleaning up all the storm debris.

As with many storms that came before Matthew, homeowners may now be questioning who is responsible for any damage caused by neighbors’ fallen tree limbs. The answer is that it might not be the tree owners.

Often, damages from falling trees and limbs during a natural event like a hurricane or ice storm are attributed to an “act of God” or “vis major” for which the tree owner is probably not responsible for damages. This theory can best be summed up this way - sometimes, things just naturally happen, and no amount of reasonable care by the tree owner would have prevented the damage.

In North Carolina, the allocation of liability for damage resulting from a fallen tree or limb is largely based upon a negligence standard.  Under this standard, if the tree owner had no actual or constructive knowledge of a defect in the tree that could have caused it to collapse, then he or she may not be liable for damages. 

While an act of God generally creates no liability for damages, the tree owner might be liable for negligence if the tree owner knew - or should have known - that the tree could damage a neighbor’s property. 

For example, if an overhanging branch had been dead for many years and neighbors had previously complained and asked to have it removed, the tree owner might be responsible if he did not cut it down and it fell in a storm, causing damage.

In turn, a tree owner may also claim the defense of contributory negligence to avoid liability for damages.  For example, it the tree owner gave permission to his neighbor to remove a dead overhanging tree limb, and the neighbor failed to do so, the neighbor may be barred from seeking damages from the tree owner.

If a tree owner believes a neighbor intends to bring legal action against him for damage from tree limbs after a storm, he or she should check with his homeowner’s insurance agent to determine whether his insurance policy will cover the amount a neighbor seeks for damage from the tree. Some policies will acknowledge coverage for these damages and other policies will not. 

Each claim is handled on a case-by-case basis. To avoid likely increases in insurance premiums, some tree owners should consider simply bearing some or all of the costs if the damages are minimal.

John D. Martin is a trial lawyer and the managing partner of the Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP’s Wilmington, North Carolina office. Martin concentrates his practice in the medical malpractice and professional liability defense practice groups. He has tried numerous medical malpractice and personal injury cases throughout eastern North Carolina. Many of his cases involve brain injury, birth trauma, paraplegia and wrongful death. Additionally, Martin has experience with large construction litigation, premises liability and hospital/workplace security. To contact Martin, call (910) 777-6018 or email him at [email protected]  
 
 

Wbj insights revised 0510 6291692911
Ico insights

INSIGHTS

SPONSORS' CONTENT
Natalieenglish headshot

MODERNIZE OUR DOWNTOWN LIBRARY AND MUSEUM

Natalie English - Wilmington Chamber of Commerce
Mc2 56882

Landing Whales Requires A Larger Ocean With More Food

Scott Byers - Majestic Kitchen & Bath Creations
Brookeskipper saltair headshot2

Tips For Preparing Your HVAC For Winter

Brooke Skipper - Salt Air

Trending News

Officials: Ice Storm Delayed But Still On Way

Scott Nunn - Jan 21, 2022

Monteith Construction Announces New CEO

Staff Reports - Jan 20, 2022

Novant Unveils Capital Project Expansion Plans

Scott Nunn - Jan 21, 2022

Ice Storm Expected To Cause Power Outages

Scott Nunn - Jan 20, 2022

Finalists Announced For Commercial Real Estate Awards

Staff Reports - Jan 21, 2022

In The Current Issue

Area Hauls In Moving Firm Rankings

Some moving companies measure where their customers are moving to and from in the U.S., and new Wilmington residents checked inbound boxes a...


Info Junkie: Kimberly Lupo

The founder and CEO of Portrett Pharmaceuticals, Kimberly Lupo, shares her top tech and info picks....


Working To Embrace Sustainability

Climate change, development and growth are cutting deep into society’s psyche, and hospitality industry leaders want to be a part of the sol...

Book On Business

The 2021 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!


Galleries

Videos

Trying to Grow a Business?
2020 Health Care Heroes
2020 WilmingtonBiz 100