Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

tree root damage

I am a resident of Sacramento County, and I am being taken to small claims court for damage to my neighbors driveway. My neighbor claims that the roots from my trees have raised the concrete of his driveway. He is looking for payment of $7500.00 from me.

I attemped to grind the the roots of my trees to stop this issue, however, access to the tree roots is on the neighbors property, at twhich point the neighbor stopped me and demanded that I remove all 7 trees completely. These 7 trees block the view of this property, which is unkempt to say the least.

I am curious if there is any case law referring to this particular claim, and what my rights and responsibilities as the tree owner are. Especially since I have made the effort previously to grind the roots in question, and the neighbor would not allow this, and demands that I remove all trees.

Asked on 5/30/08, 1:22 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law
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Re: tree root damage

The root damage is probably your responsibility, since they are your trees. You need advice on two fronts: (1) what to do about the trees, and (2) how to minimize your losses in court.

I'd start by having a licensed arborist come out and look at the tree situationm and give you a written report with recommendations.

On the second matter, I'd buy a paperback about small-claims procedure and figure out a defense, including making the neighbor prove every dime of the claimed damages. I don't think a small claims judge has authority to order you to cut down the trees, and I wouldn't do so unless the arborist says you're going to face additional problems in the future unless you do so.

The neighbor has a right to recover proven damages from you, but the small claims jurisdiction would, I think, be limited to money damages up to $7,500 and could not order any kind of mitigation or buy-down of future damages.

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5/31/08, 12:55 am
Mitchell Roth MW Roth, Professional Law Corporation
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Re: tree root damage

If the trees are encroaching on his property he can recover monetary damages and very possibly a court order requiring the trees to be removed.

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5/31/08, 9:23 pm

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