Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cutting Down Neighbor's Trees is Costly

Last week, the Mass. Appeals Court issued an opinion in Glavin v. Eckman, 71 Mass. App. Ct. 313 (2008), a case in which Martha's Vineyard property owners and their tree contractor cut down ten mature trees on a neighbor's property to improve their own view of the ocean. The court upheld a jury award granting the wronged property owner the $30,000 replacement cost of the trees, rather than damages measured by the worth of the timber or diminution of the property's value.

"The trees represented decades of natural growth that could not easily be replicated. Moreover, any diminution in market value arising from the wrongful cutting was of less importance than was the destruction of the special value that the land and its stand of mature oak trees held for Glavin." "A plaintiff may opt for either the value of the timber cut or the diminution in value of his property as the measure of damages under the statute, ... and when the latter measure does not fairly measure his damages, he may permissibly opt for restoration cost damages. "

With damages tripled under G. L. c. 242, § 7, the award came to $90,000 plus interest. According to the Boston Herald, measuring damages by replacement cost in such a case is "an apparent first" and contractor Fragosa's "lawyer John Amabile said he expects to appeal to the state Supreme Judicial Court, hoping to stop Glavin from 'putting ($120,000) in his pocket for 10 scrub oaks.'"

Much more information on tree issues is available at Mass. Law About Neighbors and Trees.