Just another Hurricane Sandy story to report:
My tree went down in the storm. It was one of those trees that was not so much big around as it was voluminous in its growth. It always had a branch going this way or that and they would seemingly sprout and grow like Jack’s Beanstalk each Spring.
Anyway, it would always drop a branch or two in a storm, but Hurricane Sandy took it and shook it like an angry giant avenging his lost goose and deposited it very nicely over my neighbors shed and rear yard while also destroying my fence in the process…you know, the good fence that had made those ogres in my back yard such good neighbors for all these years.
So long story short, within 2 weeks of the worst hurricane to ever hit the New Jersey shore in the history of shores and New Jersey, my ogreish neighbors, with the speed of summer lightning, hired a lawyer threatening to sue me if I did not promptly remove the tree and its unsightly debris!
Wow! I needn’t tell you that I was amazed. Trees had fallen all over the eastern seaboard. Some even killing innocent bystanders while others tore through houses and wrecked havoc on homesteads great and small, not to mention the other billions of dollars in flood and wind damage that had devastated the area. Contractors and electricians and police and fire rescuers had been working non stop to help those in need. There was so much to be done and so few available to help that a disaster triage system had to be put into place to determine who was in the most need of relief services…and yet my “neighbors” had found a “lawyer” to draft a threatening letter and send it in the space of 16 days when 6 of those days had been without electricity and power of any kind. And all for a downed tree in the remote corner of a back yard at the end of October with nary an innocent bystander nor lawn furniture to be seen laying under it.
Of course I had every intention of removing it and even felt that it was my responsibility for doing so since it was my tree that had fallen into their yard and I responded in kind to their lawyer and forwarded a copy to our township’s lawyer for good measure just to see if I could get a legal opinion to chime in on my side.
And I did…sort of…except that the township’s lawyer who works for the town, I presume, which is also the same town that we all (neighbor, lawyer, myself) live in couldn’t (wouldn’t?) offer any specific advice as to the legality of one resident’s claim over another or the legal responsibility for removal of trees and debris from yards and such. And why is that? Are we not township residents? Be he not the township’s lawyer? Doth we not payeth the taxes?
Apparently (and this is me presuming now) without any fees being involved or lawyers being specifically hired to render such opinions none would be forthcoming because that’s how lawyers make money isn’t it?
Anyway, I find a tree service. They chop and remove the tree. I pay the bill and then send the claim over to my insurance company. And that’s when a nice lady, not a lawyer, but just a common working person just like you and me tells me
“It is unfortunate that your neighbor is so un-neighborly. I can tell you that your legal obligation to remove a tree from your neighbor’s yard does NOT exist unless you have been negligent, which would create liability. In the case of trees, the only time where there’s negligence is if you have let a dangerous condition to exist without doing your duty to correct it in a timely fashion. That would mean the tree was dead, sick, or dying and in clear need of being removed prior to when the storm hit. Most insurance companies would require proof of written notice by the neighbor before they accept any liability on the part of their insured.So you can feel free to send your neighbor a bill for the part of the tree removal that was specifically from their property. It’s their responsibility, not yours. No matter what their attorney says.”
Gee, wouldn’t you have thought that one of those nice well schooled lawyers could have told both my neighbor and me that in the first place? Especially the one that our township employs and pays with our tax money? Of course now all of this misinformation or lack thereof from the lawyers involved might generate a nice law suit between angry neighbors. Wouldn’t that be a nice chunk of change for a lawyer or two looking for a job?
What I hate about lawyers is that they seem to make it a point to never tell you anything that can be useful and they always treat the truth as though it were a commodity to be leveraged, bought and sold and/or manipulated for profit. It seems that the more lawyers we get in this world the less truth we have available to help us figure out what’s going on.
43% of all Congressmen are lawyers while 47% are millionaires. These statistics may also explain why, when it comes to the government, it’s so hard to find out what exactly is going on these days.
Sadly though, I had to get my truth from an insurance company of all places!
And even more sadly, if only my tree had been destroyed by volcanic ash (IN NEW JERSEY!!!???) I wouldn’t have had to pay my policy’s deductible!
Undoubtedly a lawyer put that in the policy just for kicks.
Yep, Old Billy was right…
Moral of the story? Get a good education and learn as much as you can about everything that you can! The truth may set you free but unfortunately it may only be available for a fee.