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REAL PROPERTY, Property Damage – Negligence

SETTLEMENT RESULT: $2,500 paid to Plaintiffs by Focus Realty Services, $5,000 paid to Plaintiff by Better Homes Realty, and a confidential amount paid to Plaintiff by HortScience, Inc. through its insurer.

CASE: Curt and Terri Brohard v. HortScience, Inc., Focus Realty Services, Better Homes Realty, and Michael Rittenhouse

COURT DATE: Case not filed

SETTLEMENT DATE: 2005

ATTORNEYS: Plaintiff- Barri Kaplan Bonapart (Bonapart & Associates, Sausalito)
For HortScience, Inc.- Ronald S. Bushner, Esq. (San Francisco)
For Focus Realty- Harvey W. Stein (Law Offices of Harvey W. Stein, Oakland)
For Better Homes Realty/Michael Rittenhouse- Shannon B. Jones (Law Office of Shannon B. Jones, Danville)

EXPERTS: Plaintiff- Laura E. Alber, arborist, Urban Forestry, Oakland
Defendants -Treescapes, Inc., Oakland

FACTS & CONTENTIONS: In 2002 Plaintiffs purchased a home in Walnut Creek which included a 300-year-old valley oak on its lot. The next year, a limb weighing between 15 and 20 tons fell from the tree, nearly missing a neighbor’s home. The failed limb caused extensive property damage, and could have easily injured or killed someone had they been under it. The Brohards were forced to pay for an emergency removal of the tree and debris due to the imminent risk of whole tree failure following the loss of the major scaffold limb.

One month prior to the limb failure, Dr. Clark of HortScience, on behalf of Focus Realty, prepared a tree evaluation to supplement previous arborist reports. Dr. Clark indicated to the Brohards that the tree was in good condition, and did not give them any precautionary warnings, even when he was asked about maintenance of the tree and the cables supporting its branches. A forensic examination revealed that most if not all of the red flags which would have predicted this failure were obvious and/or easily discoverable, had standard hazard assessment techniques been applied to this inspection.

Using the Cost of Cure Method, the Brohards’ arborist calculated the loss of the tree to be $120,595.  In addition, the Brohards spent $10,300 to remove the tree and debris, $3,200 to pay for their neighbor’s damaged landscaping, $1,000 for street pavers, and $500 for fence repair.  The Brohards settled out of court with Defendants for a confidential total amount.  

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