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Wrongful Death Claim Filed by Parents of Driver Killed by Fallen Tree

The mother and father of a 29-year-old woman who was killed when a tree fell on her car have filed separate wrongful death claims against the city of Newport Beach.

Haeyoon Miller was killed in September 2011 when a 10-ton, 70-foot-tall eucalyptus tree fell from the center median of Irvine Ave. onto her car. After the accident, firefighters tried to lift the trunk when it dropped on the car a second time.

The parents allege that the city was negligent it its maintenance of the tree. They allege that the city knew that the tree presented a danger because other eucalyptus trees had previously fallen nearby. They also allege that city construction crews on the center median caused the dangerous condition.

According to public records, many other eucalyptus tress maintained by the city are infected by sulfur fungus, which causes root rot and the eventual collapse of the trees. The decedent's parents allege that soon after the accident, the city removed and destroyed about 100 eucalyptus trees from that stretch of Irvine Ave. in an attempt to conceal evidence.

The city of Newport Beach has denied that they were negligent. The city contends that the tree showed no visible signs of decay.

Under California law, a property owner has a duty to inspect their tree to determine if it is healthy or hazardous, and remove branches or the tree itself if it poses a hazard. The legal test is whether the property owner knew or should have known that a tree posed a hazard. If yes, and the property owner fails to act, then the property owner is legally liable for injuries or damage that result from the falling tree or tree branch. Such damage can include wrongful death, injuries, lost wages, and property damage, e.g., damage to your house, car, etc.

If you or someone you care about has been injured or killed by a falling tree, speak with a personal injury attorney at McGee, Lerer and Associates. We have four office locations: Santa Monica, Long Beach, Los Angeles and Pasadena. We provide free consultations and only charge a fee if we collect money for you.