Friday, April 4, 2008

Massachusetts Tree Law

I had previously posted about the Massachusetts Rule on Tree Liability. Last month, the Massachusetts Appeals Court generated some new law on trees in the case of Glavin v. Eckman 71 Mass. App. Ct. 313 (2008).

To improve their own view of the ocean, Eckman cut down ten mature oak trees on the property of their neighbor, Glavin, without the permission of Glavin. Glavin brought a claim under M.G. L. c. 242, § 7.
"A person who without license wilfully cuts down, carries away, girdles or otherwise destroys trees, timber, wood or underwood on the land of another shall be liable to the owner in tort for three times the amount of the damages assessed therefor; but if it is found that the defendant had good reason to believe that the land on which the trespass was committed was his own or that he was otherwise lawfully authorized to do the acts complained of, he shall be liable for single damages only."
The jury found in favor of the neighbor and awarded $30,000 in damages , which the judge trebled since it was readily apparent the the trees were not on Eckman's property.

The interesting part of this case and the decision was the damage award. The $30,000 award was for the restoration costs. Eckman argued that the award should have been for the timber value of the trees or the diminution in value of Glavin's property without the trees.
"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."
From the Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries is a site with Massachusetts Law About Neighbors and Trees.

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