They say it sounds like thunder or the creeeak of floorboards in a Hollywood horror movie.
It is the warning sound from a tree before disaster strikes: a limb as heavy as a refrigerator — or the whole soaring tree itself — was breaking loose.
“We were walking and we heard a — we heard a cracking sound,” Shifra Berger, a 12th-grade teacher, testified at a Brooklyn trial in 2007 that found the city accountable for her mother’s death. “I said: ‘Oh my gosh Mom, the tree. We have to run.’ And we tried. We tried to run.”
Ms. Berger’s was among hundreds of lawsuits across the country in recent years that have raised questions about whether more diligent tree care by cities might have prevented the death or injury wrought by falling limbs. Evidence gathered in those suits revealed a haphazard system of tree care, and several instances when lapses in communication or slow responses contributed to injuries or deaths. In most of the suits, the sound played an eerie starring role.
In interviews and testimony, those who have heard it described the sound that delivered that taunting warning, too late for any escape. City officials call the episodes tragedies that are sometimes just unpredictable accidents or a result of weather or wind, and note the relatively small number considering the millions of trees in its parks and on streets in cities and towns across America. “Unfortunately, nature is unpredictable,” the city parks commissioner of New York, Adrian Benepe, said last week.
In eight seconds after the cracking sound, according to the testimony in Ms. Berger’s case, her arm-in-arm stroll with her mother turned into a doomed fight for life, as limbs from a poorly tended tree crashed down.
The sound had a featured role, too, in a lawsuit filed by Alexander Law Group against the State Of California for the Ciccotti family when a giant cottonwood tree fell on them at their campsite at Los Banos Creek Reservoir State Park. Documents produced by the State of California confirmed that the tree had massive internal rot and yet had never been inspected. The tree was in the cap site area where it was possible for campers to stay for extended periods of time. Due to the utter failure on the part of the State to maintain and inspect this tree and others like it in the park, our attorneys were able to secure a settlement of $1.5 million dollars for the Ciccotti family.
If you or anyone you know has been injured due to a falling tree limb or a falling tree contact our office immediatly at 408.289.1776 for a free consultation to determine your rights.
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