California  |  Real Estate Law

Legal Question

Asked on: 10/29/07, 1:23 pm

tree roots and sewer lines

We have two trees that our

neighbors state have caused damage

to their sewer line. They've replaced

their sewer line and are now suing

us for a minimum of $75K for

negligence, nuisance, trespassing, as

well as the $15.6K for their new line.

In the 35 years as neighbors, this is

the first complaint of a sewer

problem in their 120 year old line

since the trees were planted (with a

permit) 30 years ago. We have an

arborist's report stating that trees

are not malicious but are

opportunistic and find nutrients from

leaky sewer lines. Could we really be

liable for these claims considering 1)

there was no precedence to request

funds for cleaning out the line due to

clogging of roots, 2) the life span of a

terra cotta line is around 50 years

and not 120 years, 3) the sewer line

must have been damaged already for

roots to invade the line, and 4) we

have maintained these trees every

year and so question their claim of


In addition, we will probably be

required to remove the trees.

However, the city of San Francisco

will not allow this since the trees are

healthy. Where does that put us?

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