$585,000: Mother Killed During Tree Removal At Her Residence

CASE DESCRIPTION:  18 year old mother was killed by a falling tree being removed on the tenant’s property.  Infant son brought suit through his Guardian Ad Litem for the wrongful death of his mother and negligent conduct by the Defendants.  Defendants disputed liability amongst themselves.

RESULT:  $585,000.00 total settlement

On February 6, 1995, Plaintiff’s 18 year old mother was killed when a eucalyptus tree collapsed upon her, striking her in the head, while she was standing on the driveway in the front yard of her home.  The Defendants are the Construction Company and owner of the home.   The owner of the home hired Defendant Ciraco G. and his company, Glass & Window to construct a brick wall around his property.  Ciraco G. determined a large (35-50 feet tall) eucalyptus tree had to be removed to complete the project.  Pedro P. approved this additional project.

The process of removing the eucalyptus tree did not involve basic safety procedures.  Prior to Bruno H’s arrival, Ciraco G. had his workman “Chatto” began digging around the base of the eucalyptus tree with a pick.  The area around the tree was not blocked off, nor were any other precautions taken.  During the process, several members of the Pedro P’s household, including the decedent, walked onto the driveway to say good bye to some visiting relatives.  Neither Ciraco G. nor Chatto gave any warning regarding the work in progress.  After Chatto finished digging a trench around the base of the tree, it fell over.  The young lady was struck by the falling tree and killed.

The Plaintiff brought suit contending that Ciraco G. and Glass & Window negligently removed the eucalyptus tree, whose collapse led to the death of Plaintiff’s mother.  Even though the removal of a large tree in a residential property is an obviously dangerous activity neither Ciraco G. nor his workman took any precautions whatsoever to protect and/or warn those walking in the vicinity of their work.  These Defendants did not give so much as a simple verbal warning to those endangered by their work.  Nor did they take any steps to guide the fall of the tree in case of emergency.  Defendant Pedro P., the owner of the home negligently hired an independent contractor.  Additionally, the other Defendants, contend the tree fell due to its rotted condition.

Defendant Glass contends they were not responsible for the actions of the tree-cutter and the workman involved.  Glass further contends there was no reason for the tree to fall over, and after it toppled they discovered it was totally rotten.   The Defendant owner claims he hired Glass to build the wall and hired the tree cutter through Glass upon their request.  Therefore, the tree cutter was acting in an agent capacity of Glass.  Defendant owner further contends there was nothing wrong with the tree, so when it fell over it was due to something the workers had done.

TYPE OF CASE:  Wrongful Death

INJURIES:  Accident resulted in the death of an 18 year old mother.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT:  On 2/6/95 in Santa Ana.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE:  Decedent (mother) – 18 years at time of incident
Plaintiff (child) – 6 months at time of incident


Darren O’Leary Aitken
For Plaintiff – Antonio S., a minor, by and through his Guardian Ad Litem, Jose S.

Sandra Montag
David Johansing
For Defendants – Ciraco G., Glass & Window & Pedro P.