What can I do if I was driving near a privately owned plaza last week when their large tree fell over on my car?

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What can I do if I was driving near a privately owned plaza last week when their large tree fell over on my car?

My vehicle is leased and my car was deemed a total loss. The tree is owned and maintained by a shopping plaza, and I am now in contact with their insurance company as well as my own. The tree was completely rotted at the base, and clearly should have been cut down prior to this incident occurring. My vehicle has 4 remaining payments with a payoff quote of $11,000. What should they be responsible for in terms of cost on a leased vehicle?

Asked on January 11, 2016 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

First, they are only potentially liable if the tree was visibily or obviously rotten to view--if all the rot was in on the inside, and there was no way to tell the tree was a threat to fall, they would not be liable, because in that case, they did not nothing wrong in not taking care of the tree earlier.
If they are liable, they are liable for the current fair market value (e.g. "blue book" value) of the car, not for your payoff amount, if it is higher than that. The law only makes people liable or responsible for the value of destroyed property, not for the cost to purchase it which, for any given person, could be (depending on the circumstances, who he bought it from, whether he paid cash or finananced, etc.) higher or lower.


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