Lawsuits against New York over deaths and injuries caused by falling tree limbs open a window on the often combative way the city responds to injury claims. Investigators engaged in surveillance of a severely injured victim; the city claimed a grandmother had not suffered after her skull was cracked by a tree limb; and in one case, the parks department destroyed most of a decayed tree that might have been used as evidence.
The city has claimed that pedestrians and parkgoers “should have known” the risks that trees present, and that a woman seriously injured while sitting on a park bench was at fault for failing to use “reasonable safety devices” that it never specifically described.
The approach contrasts with the condolences officials express after what they call tragic accidents.
Lawyers say the tree cases are an example of New York’s aggressive approach to many types of personal injury cases, which are filed against the city at a rate of some 6,400 a year, from minor slip-and-fall suits to claims of deadly negligence.