Heaven is what I cannot reach

The apple on the tree.

-Emily Dickinson

Tree law is gnarled.

The following discusses the value of damaged trees in California. In other words, I discuss the “recoverable damages,” or amount of money, you are entitled to when someone damages your trees.

What to Recover When Your Neighbor (or City) Damages Your Trees

General Value of Damaged Trees in California

Recoverable damages are generally the difference in land value before and after the destruction. See Santa Barbara Pistachio Ranch v. Chowchilla Water District (2001) 88 CA4th 439, 446-48. For example, if your property was worth $200,000 with trees and now it is worth $100,000 without trees, your recoverable damages are $100,000.

Recoverable damages sometimes include the cost of either replacing the trees or restoring the property to its condition prior to the destruction. If, for example, the cost of replacing the trees is $125,000, then your recoverable damages are $125,000.

It can also include the cost of replacing the destroyed trees with identical trees. See Heninger v. Dunn (1980) 101 CA3d 858, 865. Example: the cost of replacement is $150,000; your recoverable damages are then $150,000.

California Property Damage Law: Health and Safety Code

Anyone who sets fire to a tree is responsible for “any” harm to the tree. See Health and Safety Code 13007. The person’s actions could be intentional or negligent–it doesn’t matter. Recoverable damages includes “fire suppression” costs incurred in fighting the fire (e.g. firemen) and the cost of providing rescue services. See Health and Safety Code 13009.

California Property Damage Law: Civil Code 3346

If the destruction of the trees was intentional, then the recoverable damages are “treble” (or triple) the ordinary measure of damages per Civil Code 3346. That statute is punitive. So if your recoverable damages are $100,000, they then became $300,000.

If, however, the destruction was casual or involuntary, then the recoverable damages are double. See Civil Code 3346. For example, your $100,000 of recoverable damages becomes $200,000.

California Property Damage Law: Code of Civil Procedure 733

Code of Civil Procedure 733 allows “treble” damages for any injury to trees.

This area of the law is gnarled, so speak with a San Diego Property Damage Lawyer who knows about it.

And read San Diego Storms: Trees, Water, and Liability to learn who is responsible when a tree falls.


Questions? Contact Me for a free consultation.