Liability for overhanging tree dropping acorns on porch?
(Harvey, MI, USA)
I'm from Michigan. A few years ago I wrote a letter to my neighbors about their oak trees encroaching onto my property and the acorns that fall onto my deck as a result of the over hanging branches. In my letter I indicated that I am concerned about falling and injuring myself from slipping on the fallen acorns.
I went on to state that I've had knee replacement surgery in the past and that I fear for my safety from all the acorn deposits from their trees. They did trim back some of the lower branches, but many of the higher branches (where the grey squirrels tend to feast on the acorns) were not tended too. The result is half chewed acorns and whole acorns spewed all over our family backyard deck.
My wife and I are unable to keep up with the constant maintenance every fall as the acorns are usually in full bloom. I cannot trim the over hanging branches myself due to the height of the branches and will not trespass on my neighbor's property.
I intend to write another letter asking them to trim back the branches, but realistically unless they trim the tree all the way to the top I don't see how they can stop the acorns from falling on our deck. What action can I force them to take to clear this danger? How do I go about forcing them to get rid of the dangerous condition?
Also, if I slip and fall from stepping on an acorn on my deck could my neighbor be held liable if I am injured? I have had multiple knee surgeries in the past and this is a real concern that I have. Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Liability for overhanging tree dropping acorns on porch?":
Reggie (Harvey, MI, USA):
In some cases there are county, village or town restrictions on residents concerning how far their trees are legally able to protrude over sidewalks, common areas, and in some cases, over a neighbor's adjoining property.
Contact your municipality and ask them to direct you to the statutes addressing this issue. If there exists a prohibition against overhanging trees, report the infraction to the municipality's enforcement division. They will likely contact your neighbor in writing advising him to prune back his trees so they don't present a continuing danger.
Failure to comply with the statute may subject your neighbor to fines and other penalties.
In the event you are injured by slipping and falling you may have the basis of a personal injury suit against your neighbor, although it may be a stretch. You have a legal duty to "mitigate" your damages. In other words, you must do everything reasonably possible to clear the acorns before you have a legitimate civil action against your neighbor.
You would be better off speaking with your neighbor instead of writing letters. A face to face discussion might yield better results than a letter campaign.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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