Fallen trees: Who is liable for storm damage?


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Not always, when a tree crashes on a building or vehicle, damages may be required. Damage caused by trees is legally valid in individual cases as a so-called "general life risk". If an extraordinary natural event such as a strong hurricane overturns the tree, the owner does not stick. In principle, it is always the person who has to pay for the damage that caused them and who is responsible. However, the mere position of owner of a fallen tree is not enough.
Damage caused by a natural event can only be attributed to the owner of a tree if he has made it possible through his behavior or has caused it by improper omission. As long as the trees in the garden are resistant to the normal effects of natural forces, you will not be liable for any damage. For this reason, as a property owner, you must regularly inspect the trees for diseases and overaging. Only if a tree was recognizably ill or improperly planted and yet not removed or - in new plantings - secured with a tree stake or the like, you must pay for a storm damage.

Root rot causes wind breakage

The defendant owns the neighboring property, on which stood a 40-year-old and 20-meter high spruce. On a stormy night, part of the spruce broke off and fell on the roof of the plaintiff's shed. This requires 5,000 euros in damages. The district court Hermeskeil (Az. 1 C 288/01) dismissed the complaint. According to expert reports, the causality between a possible failure to inspect the tree regularly for damage and the damage incurred is lacking. Larger trees that are directly adjacent to the property boundary must be inspected regularly by the owner to prevent possible dangers. A thorough inspection by a layman is usually sufficient. Only if the damage could have been foreseen on the basis of regular inspections would the failed visit have been causal. The expert had stated, however, that the cause of the overthrow of the spruce was a root rot which was unrecognizable to the layman. The defendant must therefore not be responsible for the damage due to lack of breach of duty. She could not recognize the existing danger.

Drop tree with chainsaw

As long as a tree is not limited in its stability, it does not need to be felled

Do healthy trees need to be felled?

According to § 1004 BGB, there is no preventive elimination claim against healthy trees, just because a near-border tree could fall in a future storm, for example, once on the garage roof. The Federal Court of Justice has made this clear: The claim under § 1004 BGB is in fact aimed only at eliminating concrete impairments. Planting resistant trees and allowing them to grow does not alone create a dangerous situation.

The neighboring landowner can only be responsible if the trees he supports are sick or outdated and therefore have lost their resilience. However, as long as the trees are not limited in their stability, they do not represent a serious danger, which is equivalent to an impairment within the meaning of § 1004 BGB.

Video Board: Who's responsible for fallen tree damage.

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