Who is responsible for overhanging tree limbs?

Attorney Dennis SchaeferAuthor: Attorney Dennis Schaefer

It is rather common for tree limbs from one property to overhang onto an adjoining property. In most cases issues of liability never develop. The growth is simply looked at as part of the landscape. However, if the lack of adequate maintenance creates a dangerous condition, the issue becomes who is ultimately responsible?

In the situation where both land owners were aware of the dangerous condition an injury caused by over hanging limbs will most probably be viewed as a “comparative” negligence matter. One land owner is responsible because he didn’t maintain his property and the other responsible because he knew of the danger and didn’t avoid it. Ultimately, this creates a percentage question for a jury.

If the offending land owner refuses to correct the dangerous condition, the matter can become a “sticky” legal issue. Legal issues are created around whether you have the right to correct the dangerous condition that is encroaching upon your land or whether you can legally force the offending land owner to correct the dangerous condition.

Often the practical reality is nothing gets done until someone is hurt. The costs of maintaining or correcting these issues can be quite high, which is usually the reason for the lack of action. Unfortunately too many things are in our environment are neglected until someone is hurt. If a property issue or other legal question is troubling you, feel comfortable in calling Dell & Schaefer to ask your question.

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