Neighbor’s Falling Tree Creates Liability For Swim Club (PA)

Property owners have always known that they are responsible for the maintenance of trees on their own property. However, is it possible to be liable for an injury caused by a tree that falls from a neighboring property?

In Dunlap v. Ridley Park Swim Club, the plaintiff was awarded $1.1 million for injuries sustained in the parking lot of the Ridley Park Swim Club when a tree from a neighboring property fell on her.  The plaintiff argued that the Swim Club had a duty to business invitees to inspect its property.  Given a dangerous overhanging tree, she contended that the club had a duty to warn of the condition and/or to eliminate parking in that area.

The neighboring property owner agreed to arbitration, at which the plaintiff was awarded $350,000. The swim club took the matter to trial. The jury found that the swim club’s negligence was a cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and awarded $750,000.

The plaintiff recognized that the swim club could not cut the offending tree down, but she convinced the jury that the club was nonetheless remiss in its duty to provide invitees with a safe environment.  It is a good reminder that, with respect to business invitees, premises liability not only covers a duty to maintain the property but also to warn of any dangerous conditions even if posed by a neighbor’s overhanging trees.

Thanks to Eric Clendening for his contribution.

For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at dricci@wcmlaw.com.