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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    Default Fence Damage from Fallen Tree

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: TN
    My neighbor’s tree had a large limb break off during a storm and crushed a section of my fence. Since the tree is on their property, who is responsible for the damage? Am I or is the property owner where the tree is located? NOTE: There were no prior visible defects in the tree. Thanks for any help!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Default Re: Fence Damage from Fallen Tree

    Quote Quoting mbookkpr
    View Post
    My question involves real estate located in the State of: TN
    My neighbor’s tree had a large limb break off during a storm and crushed a section of my fence. Since the tree is on their property, who is responsible for the damage? Am I or is the property owner where the tree is located? NOTE: There were no prior visible defects in the tree. Thanks for any help!
    Their tree, their responsibility. However, call your homeowners insurance company and ask them.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Fence Damage from Fallen Tree

    If a limb falls from a healthy tree, that's normally regarded as an "Act of God" rather than culpable negligence by a neighbor. From what I can see, Tennessee permits you to trim your neighbor's vegetation up to the property line and leaves open the possibility that even healthy vegetation can constitute a 'nuisance'.
    Quote Quoting Lane v. WJ Curry & Sons, 92 SW 3d 355 (Tenn. 2002)
    We have determined that self-help is not the sole remedy of an adjoining landowner and that a nuisance action may be brought when tree branches and roots from the adjacent property encroach upon and damage the neighboring landowner's property. Although encroaching trees and plants are not nuisances merely because they cast shade, drop leaves, flowers, or fruit, or just because they encroach upon adjoining property either above or below the ground, they may be regarded as a nuisance when they cause actual harm or pose an imminent danger of actual harm to adjoining property. If so, the owner of the tree or plant may be held responsible for harm caused by it and may also be required to cut back the encroaching branches or roots, assuming the encroaching vegetation constitutes a nuisance. We do not, however, alter existing Tennessee law that the adjoining landowner may, at his own expense, cut away the encroaching vegetation to the property line whether or not the encroaching vegetation constitutes a nuisance or is otherwise causing harm or potential harm to the adjoining property.
    The mere presence of a tree limb that has potential to fall (as do all tree limbs) would not constitute a nuisance under that standard - the court appears to be speaking of things such as the effect of tree roots on neighboring structures or the intrusion to the point that part of the neighboring property cannot be used when it speaks of "caus[ing] actual harm". In the case cited, the plaintiff had suffered damage to her home from a falling limb, but the court's analysis of nuisance skipped over that portion of the claim and focused on how the intrusion of tree roots had all-but-rendered her plumbing and sewage system unusable and the associated damage to her home. Further,
    Quote Quoting Lane v. WJ Curry & Sons, 92 SW 3d 355, fn 9 (Tenn. 2002)
    It is important to note, however, that dead or decaying trees that cause harm are in a category of their own and require a different analysis. Unlike the cases involving harm caused by live trees, which are based on nuisance or trespass principles, cases involving dead or decaying trees are typically analyzed according to negligence concepts. Thus, liability usually turns on whether the defendant landowner lived in an urban or rural area, and whether the defendant knew or should have known that the tree was dead or decaying and therefore was on notice that the tree might fall. See, e.g., Staples v. Duell, 329 S.C. 503, 494 S.E.2d 639 (App.1997); Taylor v. Higley, No. 02A01-9207-CV-00194, 1993 WL 137593 (Tenn.Ct.App. May 3, 1993); see also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 363(2) (1965); Dan B. Dobbs, The Law of Torts 588-89 (2000). The trees involved in the present case are live, healthy trees. Thus, we do not reach the question in this case of whether or to what extent liability may be imposed for harm caused by a dead or decaying tree. That subject must await an appropriate case.

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