11 March 2016
B.C. storm sparks questions about legality of trees on public property
By Lien Yeung, Maryse Zeidler, CBC News Posted: Mar 11, 2016 6:30 AM PT Last Updated: Mar 11, 2016 6:30 AM PT
A tree that fell on a home during a wind storm and killed a woman sleeping inside has raised questions about who is legally responsible for maintaining trees on public property.
Jill Calder died early Thursday morning when a tree broke through her roof while she was in bed. The one-metre-wide tree was located on a green belt behind her house in Port Moody, B.C.
Personal injury lawyer Shadrin Brooks says cities can't be held legally liable for a tree on public land unless there's evidence they have been negligent in maintaining the tree. An argument could also be potentially made if a tree was obviously dead or dying.
"They're not necessarily responsible for every accident that occurs," he said. "They have to have a reasonable policy and they have to follow their policy but they're not really responsible for every loss that occurs on their property."
Howard Normann, Vancouver Park Board's director of park operations, says four officers inspect every tree in Vancouver at least once a year, and additional crews do maintenance year-round.
He says despite the tragedy in Port Moody on Thursday, and the increasing likelihood of inclement weather due to changing climates, Vancouver's tree maintenance program will remain status quo.
"I feel comfortable that the program we're currently using is working," he said. "We didn't have that many trees that came down last night or this morning."
However, Normann says residents should notify the city if they see a tree that could be hazardous.