Trim That Tree

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Q: My vehicle was struck in an intersection.  The other driver entered the intersection after failing to stop at a stop sign.  He says the he could not see the stop sign.  It was obscured by a tree that was located between the sidewalk and the curb.  The tree had been planted by a home builder.

A: As a general rule, a builder or contractor is justified in relying upon the plans and specifications which he has contracted to follow.  A contractor that performs its work in accordance with contract plans may not be held liable unless those plans are so patently defective as to place a contractor of ordinary prudence on notice that the project, if completed according to the plans, is potentially dangerous.

Suppose that the builder can establish (1) that in planning for the location of the curbside trees at this project, it relied on and followed plans that were prepared by its architect and engineer and were approved by the City and (2) that it assumed no duty to return to the site to remedy any defects that might eventually develop.  You will need to prove that the contract plans were so clearly defective that a contractor of ordinary prudence would not have performed the work.  Otherwise, you have no claim against the builder.

You appear to have a stronger case against the City.  In general, a city has a duty to maintain its roads in a reasonably safe condition, and that duty includes the trimming of trees in highway rights-of-way to assure the visibility of stop signs.  The City may be liable for a dangerous condition of a street or traffic sign if it has ‘actual or constructive notice’ of that condition.  Under these circumstances, your attorney is likely to contend that the City bears the heavy burden of establishing that it had no notice.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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