On August 5, 2017, a 100-year-old oak tree came crashing down during a company picnic at Menlo College. A woman and two-year-old little girl were seriously injured. The Menlo Park Fire Chief said it is amazing there weren’t more injuries given that 300 adults and children were in attendance.
Two lawsuits have been filed against the Menlo College alleging it knew or should have known that the 50-foot branch was already breaking away from the tree; it had been showing some signs of decay prior to the incident. The family of the toddler alleges the little girl suffered a concussion and skull fracture that ran from the top of her head to her left eye. The lawsuit says the child suffers from permanent scarring, eye damage and a possible brain injury, which is still being monitored. The woman’s suit states she suffered from a deep cut along her forehead, a cut cornea, a sprained ankle, and a concussion that has led to long-term nausea and dizziness.
While this scenario may seem unusual, injuries from fallen trees are fairly common. A premise liability lawsuit can claim that the property owner knew or should have known that a tree was dead or in some way posed a serious risk of falling, seriously injuring or killing someone. A suit may also be able to claim that the dangerous condition of the tree was obvious to any “reasonable person” who looked at it because it showed signs of damage or decay. If a dangerous or defective condition has resulted in an injury there is likely to be a basis for compensation. However, seeking compensation in such cases is not easy.