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Spreading Disease
Hi All,

Firstly, I'm new to this site and find it very encouraging that the industry has a forum such as this. I look forward to participating.

In reviewing a prior dialogue (June 2002 - now closed thus this message 'reopening' the matter), Staci Atwood asked, "My boss has a tree that is dying from a disease, and the neighbors are threatening a lawsuit if something happens to their trees because of this. What is his legal responsibility in this case?"

There were many responses, however everyone was guilty of a very common reaction to such a question which is the offering of their opinion on the possible legal outcome. I'll offer my somewhat qualified opinion on the likely outcome in a moment, however let's first answer Staci's question. She asked 'what is his legal responsibility'. Well, his immediate legal responsibility is to appropriately respond to the lawsuit. It doesn't matter whether he thinks he could be liable or whether arborists or even lawyers think he could be liable. The issue of liability will be determined during the course of the legal proceedings. His first 'responsibility' is to file a defence and then to participate as defendant in the action. He cannot avoid this.

As an insurance professional, I often hear people suggest, "I couldn't be held responsible for that". What they fail to realize is that it doesn't matter if they feel that they could be proven liable or not. They must deal with the action. Appreciate that when a process server shows up on the door step with paperwork for a lawsuit in hand that we cannot simply say "no thanks, try my neighbour, he just bought a vacuum cleaner" as if a lawsuit is an 'offer' from a door-to-door salesman.

As for opinion on the likely outcome, if one is aware that they have 'contaminated' vegetation that may infect the property of others and one fails to take remedial action, the neighbour upon suffering harm would likely be successful in a legal action. In jurisdictions where this is a common law matter, one need only look to the basis of negligence. Did one act or fail to act as a reasonable and prudent person? It's a simple test and I would think that knowingly dismissing a neighbours concerns regarding the very probable outcome of spread of disease would be 'negligent' behaviour.

All the best!


Prior message is at:

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Scott M.,
Posts: 3 | Registered: Monday September 25, 2006Report This Post
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