Did you read the news today? Well, last week anyway ... Sean Lennon, son of the Beatles frontman, was unable to get the parents of actress Marisa Tomei, who happen to be Lennon's NYC nextdoor neighbors, to see it his way, but nevertheless they were able to work it out. For nearly two years, the famous neighbors were fighting it out in court over whether Lennon should have to remove a massive 60 foot tall tree on his property that was literally destroying the Tomei's home with its roots.
Despite Lennon's insistence on just letting the tree be, he has dropped his appeal and finally agreed to comply with the September 2016 court order requiring him to remove the offending tree. Additionally, as part of the confidential settlement, Lennon will likely be paying a portion of the $14 million the Tomeis were seeking for the damage already done by the tree.
Neighbor Disputes Over Property Damage
If your tree falls on a neighbor's property, regardless of whether anyone hears it, there's a good chance you can be held liable. Generally, even if a tree falls during a storm, there could still be potential liability if the tree owner had notice of the potential danger, such as due to tree disease or rot.
However, like the Lennon and Tomei matter, a tree doesn't have to fall to cause damage. Tree roots and branches can often cause problems ranging from extreme structural damage to mere inconvenience. Whether and when a neighbor can sue for damage caused by tree roots will vary by state law, but generally laws require that there be actual damage. While the Tomei's were seeking millions of dollars in damages, this was more than likely due to the high cost of the major repairs needed to their home located in the high profile, high end neighborhood of Greenwich Village in New York City.
On the other end of the spectrum of wacky tree lawsuits of the rich and famous, there are the disputes that involve million dollar views being obscured by trees.