What are my rights if my neighbor’s large tree did damage to my property?

My neighbors tree fell and took out my powerline,which was repaired by the power company, that part is settled. The damage to my property was losing about $2,000 worth of shrubbery arbavitus this is the replacement of those plus labor and clean up. His insurance said that only his place would be covered,as for me it is called an act of God and I would not received anything. This does not sound right.

Asked on July 23, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Oregon


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

If the tree was dead or dying and this was known by your neighbor, then they are negligent for not having taken action to have removed it. So they (or their insurance company) are liable to cover your losses. If, however, it was a healthy tree and it was knocked over in a storm, etc. (i.e. it fell due to an Act of God), then they bear no responsiblity for you loss. You (or your insurer) must cover it.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

The obligation to pay for another's damage or costs comes from fault: your neighbor would only be liable for your damage if he had been negligent, or unreasonably careless. In the context of a tree falling, the tree's owner (the person owning the property it is on) is only negligent if he tree was obviously sick, damaged, dead, leaning/falling, etc. prior to the fall, and you can show that given it's location, the neighbor should have seen/noticed it's condition or someone else warned him of it. If the tree was known or should have been known to pose a greater-than-average threat, then the failure to do something about it (trim it; cut it down) is negligent and the neighbor is liable. But if there was no reason for the neighbor to know this tree posed a particular threat, then there is no reason he would be expected to do anything; he would not be negligent or careless in not doing something; he is not at fault; and he is not liable. 

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