In City of Pasadena v. Superior Court (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 1228, the court held that the City of Pasadena might have liability for damage to a house caused by a City-owned street tree that fell during a storm. On November 11, 2011, hurricane-force winds blew down or damaged 5,000 trees in the City, which damaged many homes. The insurance company of one of the damaged homeowners sued the City under negligence and inverse condemnation theories.
“Inverse condemnation” is the rule that a public entity may not “take” (i.e., destroy or acquire) private property for a public purpose without paying just compensation to the owner, and this rule extends to direct or indirect damages to adjacent property resulting from the construction of public improvements. The City tried to have the case dismissed on summary judgment by arguing that the tree was not a “public improvement.” Thus, the issue was whether the City’s tree, which it planted and maintained to enhance residents’ and visitors’ quality of life, constituted a “public improvement” that could provide the basis for an inverse condemnation claim. The court of appeal held that it could, denying the City’s summary judgment motion and allowing the issue of whether the tree was part of a “work of public improvement” (such as a street project), to go to trial.
©2014 Miles J. Dolinger. This article is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or a solicitation for the formation of an attorney-client relationship
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