Eugene, OR asked in Real Estate Law, Civil Litigation and Land Use & Zoning for Oregon

Q: Oregon- When a neighbors tree falls causing substantial damage who owns the tree?

A neighbors 87 year old Myrtle tree fell in our yard causing substantial damage to out structures pulling out all services within the home. We have been in a hotel for 3 weeks. The tree lays 85 x 50 x 40 feet high across 2 of our lots. The cost to remove the canopy was $10,500 with an additional non covered section of the tree remaining at about $8,000. We lost all of our trees, established landscape, boat, out buildings and garden features under the crush.

To remove the rest of the tree a lumber company is willing to pay our deductible and take it away at no additional cost.

The neighbor is claiming he owns the tree and that we must cut it and return it to him. We need to get the tree out to rebuild the fence and outbuilding. I have offered the neighbor the chance at retrieving his property at his expense to which he has declined. He has called all arborist, tree service and mills to claim ownership. What to do? He has blocked our ability to move forward with our restoration.

1 Lawyer Answer
Joanne Reisman
Joanne Reisman
  • Portland, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: Call your home owner's insurance and let them take care of it. If your neighbor sues you they will defend you. Just pay your deductible. I think your neighbor is responsible for the tree falling on your house. A property owner needs to inspect trees and make sue they are stable. (I watched a program recently here in Portland and the arborist was saying that the majority of tree that fall could have been prevented. They get rotten and there are signs that a trained arborist could have detected if the land owner had taken the time to have the trees looked. Maybe you should have an arborist inspect the tree before it is take out so they can testify as to obvious warning signs of rot.)

If your insurance company goes after you neighbor, which they will do if they think the neighbor was at fault, you should get your deductible back. Ask your insurance adjuster about this. I am not an expert on these types of cases, but personally three weeks seems like more then enough time for you neighbor to have done something. What is going on here is Mrytle wood is very valuable. But you are not in the lumber business. At some point you will be negligent for not taking steps to mitigate the damages and any subsequent damage that occurs for failure to remove the rest of the tree will come out of your pocket.

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