Anaheim City Council members apparently settled in a hurry authorizing the payment of $700,000 to the family of a 49-year-old man who died when a large Ficus tree came crashing down, smashing his parked van. Michael Gandy, a church maintenance worker who usually took lunch breaks while parking his Ford Aerostar van under the shade of the 50-foot tree, was celebrating his 49th birthday the day he died, The Orange County Register reported.
Gandy’s family members alleged in their claim that the city allowed a dangerous condition to exist on the roadway with its faulty tree-trimming practices. It certainly seems to me like they created the dangerous roadway condition. The family alleged that the city cut the tree’s roots making the tree unstable and prone to falling during Santa Ana winds.
Gandy’s sister, Carole Gandy-Strong, told the Register that she hoped her brother’s death will draw the city’s attention to the tree hazard in the area so no more lives will be lost tragically. Hopefully, Michael Gandy’s death and his family’s resulting lawsuit will lead the municipalities and property owners in Orange County to make wiser choices regarding their tree maintenance procedures.
Tree falling and tree limb shedding cases are not uncommon. The only thing uncommon about this case is, it was a Ficus tree and the city set up the dangerous roadway condition. Due to the shape, strength and root structure of Ficus trees, they rarely are a danger of falling or dropping a branch.
We have most commonly represented clients in cases involving Eucalyptus trees, especially cases where people are injured by unmaintained Eucalyptus trees that tend to shed branches during summer afternoons. This often happens without warning and especially when the trees are not properly maintained. This is a phenomenon known as “summer branch drop” where large branches, hundreds of pounds, explode off the tree without warning. Failure to maintain Eucalyptus tress at Perris Lake cost California $2.5 million in one of our cases.
It’s very tragic that the Anaheim family and the community had to lose one of its beloved and valuable members for the city to realize its mistake.