City not liable for tree root injury

23-21 33rd Road, Astoria. Image Credit: Google Maps.

Man tripped on a sidewalk that was raised because of growing tree roots. On March 5, 2017, Konstantinos Gallis tripped and fell on a raised part of a sidewalk adjacent to 23-21 33rd Road, Queens. Tree roots had raised the sidewalk and allegedly caused the trip.

Gallis sued the city of New York, claiming that the City negligently allowed tree roots to grow and lift the sidewalk, thereby creating a hazard that led to his injury. Gallis supported his claim by alleging that the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation has exclusive power over tree planting, cultivation, and care of street trees. Individuals and businesses are prohibited from cutting down or removing trees or plants.

Gallis moved for Summary Judgement and Supreme Court Justice Joseph J. Esposito denied Gallis’ motion. Gallis appealed.

The Appellate Division, Second Department, upheld the dismissal of Gallis’s complaint and held that the City is not liable for sidewalk injuries caused by tree roots. The Appellate Division held that even where a sidewalk may have been damaged by growing tree roots, the abutting property owner remains responsible for remedying any hazardous condition of the sidewalk. The fact that the City regulates street trees does not make the City Liable for injuries that may occur because of the defect.

Gallis v 23-21 33 Rd., LLC, 198 A.D.3d 730 (2d Dep’t 2021).

By: Stephen Goldstein (Stephen is a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2022.)


2 thoughts on “City not liable for tree root injury

  1. As a homeowner I cannot trim a city tree cut down a city tree or remove roots that are lifting my sidewalk but I am liable if someone is injured by that tree because it has lifted a block of a sidewalk. It is good to be king, not so much to be a subject. Great ruling so that homeowners will no longer request city trees.

  2. If property was not a multiple dwelling it seems like the city would be at least partially liable. At least this would be true in the First Department. Case seems a good one for appeal to the Court of Appeals.

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