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
Headshots march websized 2

How to Tell if Your Flat Roof Needs Replacing

David Grandey - Highland Roofing Company
Drewsmith copiersplus headshot

A Little More Communication, A Lot More Cohesion

Drew Smith - Copiers Plus
Dave sweyer 300 x 300

12 Tax Deductions Available to Rental Property Investors

Dave Sweyer - Sweyer Property Management

Trending News

Affordable Housing Investors Buy Lakeside Villas In $29M Deal

Staff Reports - Jan 26, 2023

Work Continues On Covey, Envisioned As Midtown’s Neighborhood Nest

Miriah Hamrick - Jan 25, 2023

The Half Takes A Bite Out Of New Markets With Second Location

Miriah Hamrick - Jan 25, 2023

City To Begin Due Diligence On Potential Thermo Fisher Building Purchase

Johanna F. Still - Jan 25, 2023

Novant NHRMC Unveils Its Neurosciences Institute

Staff Reports - Jan 25, 2023

In The Current Issue

Facility Owner Puts His Chips On The Table

With more than 15 years of experience in the wood chip industry, Taner Basaga has maintained key relationships with loggers in the region. “...


New App Hooks Seafood Connections

Landon Hill is the founder and owner of the mobile app that seeks to promote local fishers and make it easier for buyers to find fresh seafo...


Local, State Efforts Target Service Sector

Many industries have started to recover from the roiling effect the pandemic had on the labor market, but nearly three years after the first...

Book On Business

The 2023 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!


Galleries

Videos

2022 Power Breakfast: Wilmington's Most Intriguing People - Spence Broadhurst & Hannah Gage
2022 Power Breakfast: Wilmington's Most Intriguing People - George Taylor
2022 Power Breakfast: Wilmington's Most Intriguing People - Mike Ford
2022 Power Breakfast: Wilmington's Most Intriguing People - Meaghan Dennison
2022 Power Breakfast: Wilmington's Most Intriguing People - Rhonda Bellamy