If the city’s tree damage my front yard, gate and light and I filed a claim against city but it denied my case, what should I do?

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If the city’s tree damage my front yard, gate and light and I filed a claim against city but it denied my case, what should I do?

The claim was for less than $1,000.

Asked on June 23, 2015 under Bankruptcy Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You could try suing the city (the city's own determination is not a binding judicial determination--it's basically just the city saying, "We don't want to pay anything"), but bear in mind that it would be a longshot suit. The city does not insurer its residents against harm; the city would only be liable, or have to pay you something, if it was at fault in some way. In a falling tree case, that generally means that you'd have to prove in court that:

1) The tree represented some special hazard--e.g. it was sick, dead, dying, had a big crack in it, its roots had been cut, it had been hit by lightning previously, etc.;

2) The city *knew* or should have known (e.g. that someone had filed or made a complaint about the tree, or the city had inspected the tree for some reason) that there was some special hazard *prior* to the tree damaging your property;

3) Between the time the city became aware of the threat and when the damage was done, there was sufficient time/opportunity for the city to do something to prevent the harm (e.g. trim or cut down the tree); and

4) The city unreasonably failed to take the opportunity to prevent the harm.

As you can imagine, it can be very difficult to show all the above.

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