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If a Tree Crashes in the Backyard…

I wish I could tell you that this photograph is an image I stumbled upon online. Unfortunately for me, what you see are the remains of my neighbor’s recently split, towering white pine tree in shambles. It cracked about twenty feet up during a recent wind storm. The base of the tree remains firmly in place, but every other part of it is sprawled out on my back property. What a mess!

My wife and I are lucky enough to have a wooded 3-acre residential lot behind us, the owners of which barely make a peep. When we moved into our house years ago, they installed a fence along the stone wall that farmers had put there many years ago. I’ve been warning my wife for years that it was just a matter of time before Mother Nature pushed one of those trees over the fence and into our yard.

During Easter Sunday, I had my boys look over the fallen tree. One of them asked if I had called my neighbor to tell him about the tree, implying that I should also tell him to get busy and clean up the mess. I smiled at my son and told him I knew from my experience as an insurance agent that as soon as that tree landed on our property, we owned it. He cringed a bit and said it was bound to cost big bucks to remove it. Then he suggested I try to remove it myself. Funny thing, he didn’t say maybe the two of us should remove it, just me.

My kids are funny that way.

Although common sense might tell you my neighbor is liable for “his tree” falling on my property, this is actually what insurers call “an Act of God,” for which no one is liable. Had my neighbor been taking the tree down with a chainsaw and the tree fell the wrong way onto my property, then, yes, maybe he would be liable. And just so you know that God and Mother Nature do have a sense of humor, the massive pine tree fell exactly where I stack sticks and fallen branches all year long for my annual, spring-time “burn pile.” If only this clean-up could be as simple as lighting a match.

Oh well, at least I don’t have to call my insurance agent to ask if I’m covered, or bother my quiet-as-a-mouse neighbor on the wooded lot. The only person I’m calling is my landscaper while I reach for my checkbook. Ugh.

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