Appellate Court Affirms $4.5 Million Jury Verdict Against Country Club and Management Company for Injuries Caused by Falling Tree
In April of 2008, a woman was walking upon a country club golf cart path, when a large cottonwood tree fell and struck her, thereby causing her severe injuries. The woman filed a negligence complaint against the country club that owned the property and the management company that maintained the country club grounds. A jury returned a verdict in the amount of $4.5 million, in favor of the woman, finding both the country club and management company equally responsible for her injuries. The management company filed an appeal, arguing in part, that it owed no duty to the woman.
At trial the management company argued that the rotten tree at issue had a hidden danger, of which it had no knowledge. However, evidence revealed that in July of 2006, another large cottonwood tree nearby, fell over because it was rotten. The evidence further showed that an employee of the management company was aware of the July 2006 incident, and part of his job duties were to investigate the cause of that tree fall and make certain that the trees nearby were healthy. The Appellate Court focused upon this evidence, and it held that a reasonable person should have known, after the July 2006 incident, that nearby trees were possibly rotten and posed a danger of falling. Moreover, it held that the management company had a duty to inspect the nearby trees, to determine whether they had become rotten, as well.
To view the entire opinion, see the following link: