Neighbor v. Neighbor

Our client, a successful dentist, acquired his first home in Encino. The sprawling home had been part of an estate that was then rented for a few years. It was neglected and overgrown. It overlooked the property of Plaintiff, a successful owner of a company that was involved in the entertainment industry.

Plaintiff had five mature eucalyptus trees and a black walnut tree on her property that impaired our client’s view to some degree. An adjacent neighbor also had trees on her property that impaired the insured’s view, as well.

Shortly after moving into his new home, our client was approached by a gardener who spoke Spanish only and who presented him with a business card, saying that he was a licensed and insured landscaping contractor. This turned out not to be the case.

Our client showed him around his own property, pointing out trees he would like to have removed and/or trimmed back. He pointed to trees on Plaintiff’s property and said that he would like to have those trees trimmed, too, but that he would need to obtain permission before doing so.

The end result was that the gardener testified that he was told to proceed with the trimming of Plaintiff’s trees, something our client denied. The gardener severely trimmed Plaintiff’s trees with the process known as “topping,” a technique criticized by arborists, on a Saturday when she was away for the weekend. It was undisputed that anyone had spoken to her in advance about trimming the trees.

Plaintiff sought damages that could be trebled (per statute) if the actions of our client were found to be intentional. She claimed that the trees must be removed because of their appearance and that large new trees should be installed in their place. Because she claimed that her slope was unstable, a massive retaining wall would need to be installed, and she would need to move out of her home for several months while the work was done.

Our experts said that the trees had been previously topped, and that the slope was stable. Plaintiff could choose to replace the trees or keep them there and engage in restorative efforts.

Plaintiff demanded $1.5 million, reduced to a C.C.P. §998 Offer of $1.1 million before trial. We offered $200,000.00.

Verdict: Damage to trees-$27,500.00; corrective restorative pruning–$20,000.00; and annoyance, discomfort and loss of enjoyment–$30,000.00.

Post-trial, our judge trebled the tree damage, but not the annoyance damages. Total verdict, $172,500.00.

All in all, a satisfying result against two Plaintiff’s attorneys, one of whom formerly represented the current occupant of the White House.

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