bonsai related legal question

buddhamonk

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Quick question -

My neighboor had some trees that sit close to the dividing property line trimmed by a professional tree company. No one told us they would be doing this in advance. When I get home, a large branch must have fallen on my side of the fence, knowing three trees off the bench. I assume, the workers came into my yard (without permission, through a closed fence/door), and put the trees back on the bench. You can tell they fell off the bench because the pot is missing half the soil that was in it. Two are not damaged but an old kiyohime maple was severely damaged, missing 4 main branches and is essentially ruined. Then then proceeded to leave as if nothing happened. My family was at home all day and no one came to the house to apologize or notify us of the damages.

I plan to call the company today ( I got the number from my neighboor who wasn't aware about this )

If the company owner/manager, refuses to settle and pay for the damages, what are my options?

Manny
 
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garywood

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Manny, C-4, .44 mag, Molotov, Paladin :D
That's a real pisser! If it's worth legal action through an attorney then go that route if not there's small claims court. Have contacted your insurance agent?
Homeowners insurance might cover it and take care of the legal issues. Is the company bonded and licensed?
Wood
 
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buddhamonk

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Thanks for the quick reply Gary,

I have yet to contact anyone, I was going to deal with the company directly first. Not sure if I'm supposed to get my homeowners insurance or the neighboor's involved first. The company is an LLC and their website does not indicate whether they are bonded and insured or not.

I think even small claim court wouldn't be worth time, fees, effort for a $200 tree
 

sfhellwig

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It will always vary in your area but when I looked into small claims court I believe there were no fees. Limited value of $4,000, whatever representation you want. Just have to have an address to serve the plaintiff. If they don't show and you have a decent story you will very likely win. And that's about all the further the good news goes. Getting paid may never happen and that's what costs money to enforce. For such a small value and being a company they would likely take care of it. If not your best recourse it to smear their name with the chamber of commerce. Pretty bad when a company has a complaint against them as the customer's neighbor who had unreconciled damages.
 

mcpesq817

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At a minimum, I would contact the neighbor and see if the neighbor is willing to provide restitution. I would also take pictures of the scene and your damaged trees. Very sorry to hear about your kiyohime. :(
 

rockm

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Before doing anything legal (And I am no lawyer, but have faced a similar situation with a busted, expensive Tokoname pot), I would gently ask your neighbor about the tree work and MENTION the company SEEMS to have damaged some of your property (you have no direct proof that it was them).

I'd try to avoid agressive confrontation, allow your neighbor the chance to put things right on their own. See where that goes. They may not know the damage occurred-as the tree company may not have told them. Ask them if the tree company was bonded and insured--there are a lot of tree trimming outfits that are not and more than a few that are simply fly-by-night crooks, idiots, or both. If the company wasn't, your claim will be to your neighbor's insurance, most likely...so pissing them off ahead of time isn't going to do any good.

Additionally, the real bottom line here is --is it worth potentially going to the mat for a $200 tree with someone you may be living next to for a couple of decades?
 

buddhamonk

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I already talked to my neighboor, she had no idea and she apologized and gave me the information about the company. She is actually just renting the house so she mentioned submitting the tree cutting bill to her landlord. I could get in touch with them.

I did take plenty of pictures.

It just seems odd to me that you can destroy property in someone's yard, enter the yard illegaly to put things back together as if nothing ever happened, and just expect to get away with it...
 

mcpesq817

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My sense is that since the landscapers are agents of your neighbor, your neighbor should technically be the one on the hook to you (who in turn, can go after the landscapers for whatever the neighbor owes you). I could be wrong though.
 

buddhamonk

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So the manager of the company came by the house to evaluate the damages. I wasn't home but my wife let them in the yard to see what they did. He recognized that it was their fault, was apparently very apologetic and embarassed. Explained that they had to come in the yard to clean up all the fallen branches. Told my wife that the tree would live and that there is nothing to reimbursed, gave her a card and said he'd give us a deal on tree trimming if we wanted some work done.

The issue that comes up all the time is how much is a tree worth. I bought it at an auction a number of years ago. It's value has increased since. How much value has it lost now that's its missing the majority of the branches. It's a complex issue. I don't have any receipt to show how much I paid for it. I can't provide expert opinion of how much it was worth two days ago and how much it is worth today...
 

Brian Van Fleet

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A few years ago, during hurricane Ivan, several of my neighbor's trees fell across my roof, and took out several bonsai and several other trees I was growing out in the ground. Our insurance company reimbursed me for the trees in pots, but stated the ones in the ground were considered landscape/shrubbery and they weren't covered beyond a very nominal amount.

I submitted replacement cost of pots (which I keep in my records anyway) and replacement of similarly-developed trees, using several nurseries' websites to value the replacement cost. It helped that I kept pretty good photographic records as well.

I'd suspect in your case, your insurance company would work with you, and maybe even subrogate the cost over to the tree trimmers so you don't have to deal with them directly.

Good luck, that is unfortunate.
 

milehigh_7

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First and foremost gather as many facts as possible. Such as EXACT dates, times, pictures of work, and damage and so forth. As your other neighbors if they saw the company there and you might find a witness.

Second file a report with the police even if it leads to no type of charges you might need it for documentation later.

Now that you have done all that, I would, in a non-accusing way, ask your neighbor for the name of the company.

Then get as much information on them as possible.

Now you are ready to contact an Attny and/or insurance. but with insurance, time is of the essence they will fight you on damages and more so if you do not file a claim for an extended period of time.
 

Bill S

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I agree with Brian on this, the one caveat is you need to be carefull filing claims with your own homeowners insurance these days, 2 claims and they will tell you to find another insurer, I have seen this happen more than once. Then you are on the list.
 

rockm

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If the tree is still alive, I'd just chalk it up to experience.

This kind of low value (as opposed to REAL big-time damage above $1,000) claim can drive up your premium.

The value of bonsai is vastly overestimated by bonsai owners, since they see artistic value in their plants and are far too emotionally involved with them (I say this as an emotionally involved bonsai grower--I feel your pain). The actual value of a given bonsai--barring an actual receipt of what you paid for the tree--is not very much, despite the blood sweat and tears you've put into the tree.

It's a hard truth and unpleasant to think about, but bottom line, most bonsai are worth about what a retail landscape tree is worth...

The branches on the tree can be regrown in a couple of seasons. Your relationships with your neighbor and insurance company could take much longer and involve more pain...

By the way, pots are a different story. They usually come with receipts or a way to physically compare them to other pots of similar value. They're easier to estimate value for.
 

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