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Hazard tree liability in the United States: Uncertain risks for owners and professionals

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The liability United States (U.S.) tree owners face from hazardous trees on their private properties has and continues to undergo a transformation. The traditional common law legal test focused upon whether a tree owner had acted to create a hazardous condition on the property. The modern trend is towards a test that imposes greater responsibility and greater uncertainty on tree owners and arborists. Abandoning the natural/artificial distinction, the modern test, adopted in half the U.S. jurisdictions, imposes general principles of negligence on tree owners. This paper discusses the U.S. legal context for hazardous trees, particularly the impacts on individual tree owners. It closes by addressing various practical means to minimize the risks associated with the modern legal standards, both for susceptible tree owners, and for professionals assessing the subject property.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Forestry, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2004


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