Mercury Casualty Co. v. City of Pasadena

A city is not liable in inverse condemnation for damage caused by a falling city-owned tree unless the tree was planted by the city as part of a civic improvement.   A tree is a work of public improvement for purposes of inverse condemnation liability if the tree is deliberately planted by or at the direction of the government entity as part of a planned project or design serving a public purpose or use, such as to enhance the appearance of a public road. Here, the tree that fell on the insured’s house during a severe windstorm was planted in the 1940s or 1950s.  It was of a different species than the trees the city had designated for that street and there was no other evidence to show that the city had planted the tree or why.  So it was not a public improvement and the city was not liable to the insurer in inverse condemnation for the damage it caused by falling on the insured’s house.  Also, the city bore no liability for inadequate maintenance of the tree since its city plan for maintaining trees was reasonable and better than those of comparable cities.

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 3 (Lavin, J.); August 24, 2017; 2017 WL 3634467

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