Legal Question in Insurance Law in North Carolina

Neighbors responsibility for overhanging branches

A neighbor has complained about tree branches that have fallen from two healthy pine trees onto her property damaging her clothesline. She feels that the tree owners need to have the limbs removed so they do not drop on her property. She has registered her complaint with a lawyer who wrote a letter placing the owner on ''notice''. Doesn't she have every legal right to trim those branches herself if they hang over onto her property? And if she doesn't trim them and they fall and cause damage, is'nt she negligent?

Asked on 12/16/02, 8:09 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

John Kirby Law Offices of John M. Kirby
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Re: Neighbors responsibility for overhanging branches

That's a fascinating question. There are only a few "tree" cases in North Carolina. As a general matter, the owner of the tree would be liable if he/she were on notice of problems with the tree, i.e. such that it is foreseeable that the limb might fall on the neighbor's property. Also, you are probably right that the neighbor has the right to cut the limbs on his/her property, as a general matter of property law. As to whether it would be contributorily negligent to allow the limbs to remain on one's property, that is a novel issue for me; I can see it argued either way. If you were to hold that person contributorily negligent, then I would think as a matter of logical consistency that person should be entitled to compensation for their time/trouble/effort expended in cutting the limbs. All in all, it's fairly gray, but the safest course would be for the owner of the tree to cut the limbs.

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12/16/02, 9:31 pm

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