The Bill of Rights: Valuation vs Land Use

Insurance, Legal
The Bill of Rights: Valuation vs Land Use Few of us have read the U.S. Bill of Rights, which is quite understandable. However, the last 12 words of Article 5 have shaped our nation and introduced a niche legal area of the law known as condemnation or eminent domain. “… Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” We have forgotten that our ancestors were routinely forced out of their homes and businesses by their landlord and our now good friend, England. Routinely. Imagine a knock on your business door.  There are armed soldiers telling you to gather your belongings and get out as they are going to take your property for their use and comfort. No compensation. No appeal. No warning. Get out. Now. The…
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Tree Failures and Wrongful Death Claims

Insurance, Legal
Tree failures and wrongful death and landscape claims typically fall into the category of valuations. A tree or landscape was damaged, and somebody wants to be paid. And there is much to be considered regarding the valuation of trees and landscapes, which goes to a different level if the tree failure caused personal injury or death. Then the ground rules change. Obviously, much more is now at stake for both the insured, the claimant, and of course the person or entity responsible for paying alleged damages. When wrongful death or personal injury claims caused by tree failures come to your desk, there are many considerations to be contemplated, one of which is “Who owns the tree?” Other considerations evolve about whether the tree failure could have been prevented; was the…
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Is Customer Service Dead? Not in This Small Town!

Stories of Life
Is customer service dead? Not in Old Town, Florida! Population of about 6,000. Located about two hours south of the Georgia/Florida state line. As you approach the only intersection in this small town, turn right and proceed 11 miles for the best hamburger in town. Turn left and approximately two football fields down the road you will find a hardware store on the right. On a sleepy Saturday morning, I entered the hardware store on a quest from my bride:  Return home with eight solar-powered nightlights needed for a riverfront home we just purchased. I was greeted by Ned, and I explained I needed eight replacement lights. Although he didn’t carry them, he said he could get them for me. After all, this was not a big box store, but…
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Expert Witnesses and Attorneys: Anger Isn’t Good

Legal
How to Make an Attorney Angry: The Seven Deadly Sins I have noted over the years and in close to 1000 litigated assignments I have been named an expert witness on, all attorneys have melting points – negative or angry reactions to actions of their expert witnesses. As is almost always the case in life, it’s the little things in business (and life) that count. So here are my Top 7 negative reactions attorneys have for expert witness conduct. 1. Nickel-and-diming: While not of the greatest importance, nickel-and-diming an attorney to death never fails to light a fire on their already short fuse. I know experts who keep time clocks on their invoices. They have their tasks reduced to the minute; sometimes, to the second. Seriously. Yes, I know attorneys…
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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors. Trees and Neighbor Disputes.

Insurance, Legal
As the old saying goes, good fences make good neighbors. I’m not an attorney and certainly not qualified to give legal advice. However, after scores of litigated cases where I served as an expert witness, I can offer some significant take-home lessons for anyone involved with a neighbor who is a poor steward of their trees, causing you a nightmare of possible consequences as a result. The first issue regarding trees and neighbors is always reduced to who owns the tree. At the simplest level, with one tree and two neighbors, the land on which the trunk is wholly located is always the owner of the tree. If the trunk stands partially on the land of two or more people, then the tree typically belongs to all property owners in…
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Eminent Domain Takings: New Florida Formula

Legal
Let me tell you a story . . .In the early 2000s , I received a telephone call from one of the nation’s leading eminent domain attorneys. It was a call that arborists only dream of getting, a call that started my fierce defense of Article 5 of the Bill of Rights. A call that spurred me  to have my career revolve around it. Eminent domain centers around Article 5 of the Bill of Rights, property rights to be exact. Our country was founded on the principle of property rights:  “. . . Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” These attorneys are highly skilled at appraising the value of anything taken by the government for public use. A road widening is a classic example…
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Failed Tree Liability

Insurance, Legal
Is the Whole Always the Sum of its Parts? The “Green Industry” is governed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI A300). The Standards consist of 10 Parts that cover the various categories of work and provide for certain standards in the writing of specifications and performance. This of course affects where liability lies for a failed tree. The question becomes: Are these Standards separate and apart from one another or is there one Standard with 10 Parts? This question is central to the matter at hand. A man standing near a tree dies instantly when a limb fails and kills him. Negligence or an accident? Perhaps an Act of God? Was the  failure covered by insurance or did a preexisting tree condition exempt coverage? There are many instances where…
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The Interview: It’s the Same But Different.

Insurance, Legal
The most published work on LinkedIn may be the topic of the dreaded job interview, followed quickly by how to write a résumé. Thousands of professionals comment on this topic, and LI has some very smart and credentialed masters who know what advice to give to real-life questions. However, there is another type of job interview also requiring a résumé that speaks to keeping the position one already has after the interview ends. If you are successful in getting past the interviewer and the questions, you keep your job. If you don’t, you don’t. It’s a sink-or-swim scenario. In this plot, you already have a job and are trying to keep it. The rules of the road are simple: You must answer every question honestly. If you don’t, you lose…
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Tree and Landscape Settlements: The Man Behind the Green Curtain

Insurance
When a tree falls on a person or property, insurance companies basically want to know three things:  What caused the tree failure?  Was there a defect that was open and obvious prior to the fall?  What is the value of the subject tree and/or landscape? The answer to the first question is typically answered by photographs. Unless the incident has caused serious damage or death, a site visit is not warranted. There cannot be too many photographs of incident trees, however, so please attempt to provide them. Defects in trees where a claim is made typically fall into two categories: Those whose before-situation conditions could have been detected by inspection prior to their failure, and those trees where the before-situation defects were well hidden from view and could not be…
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Permission to Approach the Witness

Insurance, Legal
The direct examination went rather well considering that most people expect the retaining attorney to be a great orator worthy of Cicero accolades when, in fact, they might have little experience or expertise in oral presentations at trial. The exchange between me, as the expert tree witness, and my retaining attorney was not over-rehearsed and was a more natural reflection of the facts. The jury was attentive and had a genuine interest in the value of the trees subject to the dispute. Then came the dreaded cross examination, the other side’s attorney and her opportunity to convince the jury I was a blithering idiot. And the golden ring of all cross examinations, the chance to prove me a liar under oath. Few realize that the number one fear of the…
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