Tree falls on my car on apartment property

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Latest post Sun, Feb 11 2007 11:50 PM by Just Paul. 3 replies.
  • Sat, Feb 10 2007 6:50 PM

    • stacy04
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on Sat, Feb 10 2007
    • Posts 2

    Warning [=*#] Tree falls on my car on apartment property

    In the end of December a tree blew over and hit my car in San Diego at the apartment complex I was living at. (There were winds that day.) I came back to my apartment after work and parked in a designated parking space. 30 minutes later I hear a crack and a tree fell, hitting 3 cars, mine included. The police came and did not file a report because "it happened on private property" and that if it happened on the street if would be a different case. I think that's bs, but I dont know the law very well. I asked the apartment if they would fix my car, they said it was an act of God.
    I think it was negligence on the apartment. The tree was about 40 feet tall with about a 2 foot root system that was mostly above ground. The tree seemed unsafe, but I never gave it much thought. They said they did safety checks on the trees but wouldnt let me see the paperwork. (Two weeks later, they started cutting down a lot of trees.) They said their insurance doesn't cover things like trees falling down etc. The apartment was extremely unhelpful.
    Can I go to small claims court for this?
    If anyone has anything to help me out, please let me know. I would love any Ca. law that addresses this topic.

  • Sun, Feb 11 2007 12:12 PM In reply to

    re: Tree falls on my car on apartment property

    I'm guessing you don't have damage coverage on your auto insurance. Otherwise, you could have your insurance company pay for the repairs.

    You can certainly go to small claims court.

    But your chances of winning are not real good.

    I handled many tree fall claims just like this.

    The apartment complex may not be responsible under the conditions you describe.

    For the apartment complex to be responsible you would have to prove that the tree WAS unsafe (not that you just think it was unsafe), that they had been notified of, or should have known about, the condition, and that they failed to do anything about it.

    And, no, they don't have to give you their paperwork but you can certainly subpoena it once you have filed the lawsuit.

    One thing that might help you is the weather for Dec in San Diego:

    Did this happen on the 27th when winds gusted at 40 mph. If so, a 40 mph gust might not have been enough to topple a tree unless there was significant root and trunk deterioration.

    Trouble with that: Root rot and trunk deterioration typically occur from the inside and are not observable from the outside so you would have difficulty proving knowledge of the defect.

    On the other hand, if above ground roots did not properly support the tree, you might have something but you would probably need an arborist to testify in court for you.

    And it's also possible that lightning hit the tree and then you have no case at all.

    Did you, or anybody else, photograph the tree after it came down? That would certainly be helpful.

    By the way, having or not having a police report is irrelevant.

    Your chances are slim but I'd still go for it. All you have to lose is your filing and process service fees and a little time.

    It's always possible that, once they receive the lawsuit, the apartment owner or his insurance company might settle to avoid the cost of going to court.
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  • Sun, Feb 11 2007 1:49 PM In reply to

    • stacy04
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on Sat, Feb 10 2007
    • Posts 2

    re: Tree falls on my car on apartment property

    I do only have liability on my car because of the cost benefits.
    It did happen on the 27th of December.
    Every tenant looked at that tree as unsafe as the root system was almost sitting on top of the ground.
    There was no rain at all and no thunder or lightning.
    Pictures were taken from the apartment complex and by myself. The big problem is that I left my camera in my friends car the day after the tree falling down and he has yet to return it, despite my numerous phone calls.
    Thanks for your help.
  • Sun, Feb 11 2007 11:50 PM In reply to

    • Just Paul
    • Top 500 Contributor
    • Joined on Wed, Nov 23 2005
    • CA
    • Posts 87

    re: Tree falls on my car on apartment property

    For what it's worth, if this was a eucalyptus tree, they are notorious in California for having shallow root systems and falling on cars in windstorms. (Those same root systems also tend to tear up parking lots before falling.) Many smart business and apartment owners have removed them for this reason. So you could claim that the tree falling was foreseeable, and that the apartment owner should have cut it down before it became a problem.

    On the other hand, the apartment owner could claim that if you had truly considered the tree unsafe yourself, you (along with two other tenants) wouldn't have parked your car underneath it during a windstorm.

    Bottom line: There's no harm in trying, but this is not an open and shut case.
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