NYC tree damage claim upheld

New York City has general capacity to sue for negligent destruction of trees. A private property owner hired Tri-Rail Construction company to perform sidewalk repairs for a property adjacent to City property. During the course of the sidewalk repairs, Tri-Rail damaged City trees.

The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation sued to seek compensation for the trees. The Supreme Court, New York County, denied Tri-Rail’s motion to dismiss the City’s complaint. Tri-Rail appealed. The Appellate Division, First Department, reversed, ruling that the City lacked capacity to sue Tri-Rail for their negligent destruction of City trees. The Appellate Division ruled that Park’s Rule 56 RCNY 5-01 (c) enabled the City to seek damages from any person who without a permit “cuts, removes or destroys” City trees. The Appellate Division, ruled, however, that Parks lacked the authority to recover money damages for a negligent injury to City trees.

The Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division and ruled that the City has general capacity to sue for the negligent destruction of its property and that this general authority supported the City’s negligence-based lawsuit.

City of New York v. Tri-Rail Constr., Inc., 34 N.Y.3d 963 (2019).

By: Shelby Arenson (Shelby is a New York Law School student, Class of 2021.)

2 thoughts on “NYC tree damage claim upheld

  1. Shelby Arenson:
    When researching this, did you or did the court consider the question of whether or not the City actually owned the tree(s), or was it assumed that these trees, in particular, or all “street” trees are owned by the City? Such an assumption would not be correct, since in many circumstances the City does not “own” the trees, and in many circumstances the City does not “own” the land on which the trees might be located, even if they are in the sidewalk area. Interested to see what you have to say.
    718 983 8800

    • Randy, As the article clearly indicates, the property where the trees were located was owned by the City, and that the trees were City owned. No assumptions were made.

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