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  • Legal FAQs

    Tree falls on car

    During the high wind in the SE a few weeks ago a horse chestnut tree in the pavement fell on my neighbour's car. He was parked on the road outside his house at the time.I have just heard that the council are refusing to pay him because they say the tree was checked a year before so its not their fault!

    Can they do that?

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    He is at liberty to sue them for his losses.


    When he asked the council for a copy of the inspection report, what light did it shed?

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    The council are probably right.

    The tree falling on the car isn't the responsibility of the council unless they have been  negligent in some way. If they inspected the tree and it seemed to be fine, they've done more than most tree owners would do, and it's unlikely that they have failed in their duty of care to your neighbour.

    Just because someone else's property has caused damage and expense, they are not automatically responsible for it. That's what insurance is for. Sometimes trees just fall over in the wind.

    It's the same when water leaks into a flat from above, you have to be able to show the upstairs owner was negligent, because pipes sometimes just start to leak. But people expect the upstairs owner to be automatically liable.  Hours of fun and argument!

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    He is always at liberty to sue them, however I suspect the only grounds he could bring a claim against them would be negligence. Consequently he would need to show that the council either did not check the tree or the report indicated that the tree wasn't safe and the council took no action.

    The Council would most likely defend the case under the legal principle of "force majeure", just because his suspicions about the tree were correct does not prove negligence.

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    Thanks very much for these thoughts everyone - very useful. I am just really surprised that the council/ their insurers aren't liable unless its caused by their error. Good news if one of our trees falls down though(unless its different for individuals).

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