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With Hurricane Ida making landfall, Southeast Louisiana is seeing mass destruction from wind, water, and damage due to falling objects.  Many people’s property, cars, and homes have been affected by falling and broken trees leading to the question of who is responsible if your neighbor’s tree falls on your property.

At the outset, a tree located on your neighbor’s property is your neighbor’s tree.  In fact, under Louisiana law, if your neighbor’s tree has roots or branches that extend into your yard, you have the right to demand that they trim the branches or otherwise remedy the situation if it interferes with your enjoyment of the property.

Louisiana Civil Code article 688 states:

“A landowner has the right to demand that the branches or roots of a neighbor’s trees, bushes, or plants, that extend over or into his property be trimmed at the expense of the neighbor.  A landowner does not have this right if the roots or branches do not interfere with the enjoyment of his property.”

Generally, in Louisiana, we hold the owners of things responsible for problems caused by those things.

Louisiana Civil Code article 2317.1 states:

“The owner or custodian of the thing is answerable for damage occasioned by its ruin, vice, or defect, only upon a showing that he knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of the ruin, vice or defect which caused the damage, that the damage could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care, and that he failed to exercise such reasonable care.” 

Accordingly, to prove a neighbor or his insurance company is responsible for a tree falling into your yard, you should prove that he knew or should have known that the tree could fall.  In addition, Louisiana law requires proof that the tree fell due to the fact that the neighbor failed to act prudently is taking care of the tree.

This is where the complication arises following a hurricane – your neighbor or his insurance company will certainly argue that the tree fell due to hurricane force winds and not due to the neighbor’s actions or inactions.  If, in fact, that is true, your neighbor may not be responsible for this damage.

The simplest thing to do is to make a claim with your own insurance company for this damage.  If there is an argument that your neighbor should be responsible, they will turn around and seek reimbursement from their insurance company on your behalf.  If your insurance company is not being responsive to you, we may be able to help.

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