Blog

THE CUT MAN, THE DUAL, AND THE DANCE

Insurance, Legal
One of the most important components of an attorney’s litigation team is the expert. An attorney going into a court without the best expert is like a solider going to battle without a rifle. And so it came to pass in a federal courthouse some time ago that a black limousine pulled up in front of the courthouse steps. An attendant quickly stepped to the rear door to open it for his passenger. It was at that time one of the guards at the courthouse shared with me this quip: “You (me) are in for one hell of a ride, my friend.” Not a particularly a comforting message with my appearance for testimony scheduled for first thing in the morning – just about 15 minutes away. It seemed this particular…
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Death, Injury, & Property Damage

Insurance, Legal
During February, I received four requests from different insurance companies to render an opinion on the unfortunate outcome of trees falling on people and onto property. One death, one personal injury, and two homes with extensive damage. One month. Trees can be and are dangerous. That danger grows exponentially when the subject trees are not inspected for hazardous parts or repairs, or when removals are not implemented. The one constant in all of these assignments was the insurance companies, which only wanted to know the truth of the matter. Could the tree failure have been prevented? Was the insured at fault?  I have read, as has most everyone, the available news that paints insurance companies as monsters for not providing proper and ethical coverage. I work with attorneys who have…
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Fat Cats and Honesty

Insurance, Legal
One commodity weighs heaviest among all professionals: the truth. Nothing separates success in the professional marketplace and private relationships quite like the truth. Synonymous with honor, integrity, and character, the truth and a reputation for telling it are priceless, except when the truth interferes with a constructed reality based on miscues driven by deception. In this instance, I was having what is irreverently known as “A Coming to Jesus Meeting” with my client, an attorney. Seasoned and successful attorneys retain an expert well in advance of filing suit. The expert, supposedly, teams with the attorney, and perhaps other experts to inform the attorney regarding the strength or weakness of the case. Two things can go wrong during this exercise: One, the expert isn’t expert enough in the process or in…
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Signs, Signs: Everywhere There are Signs!

Insurance, Legal
In this matter, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association (FOAA), and Citizens for a Scenic Florida (Citizens) were caught in a quagmire of legal lawsuits regarding the appraisal of trees in front of billboards along Florida’s scenic highways. In Florida, there is a legal right of a billboard owner to have 1000 feet of clear sightline distances. These clear sightline distances may be divided into whatever visual corridor the billboard owner desires; however, most owners of billboards opt for 1000 continuous linear feet of clear sightline corridors. If a tree or other vegetation obscures the face of the billboard within that sightline distance, the owner of the billboard has a right to prune or remove the subject tree, provided an application to do so is…
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The Cart Before the Horse

Insurance, Legal
This insurance claim came from an insured in a metropolitan city. A construction company installing a new sidewalk accidentally (is it ever any other way?) hit the limb of a 17-inch-diameter tree growing in the cutout of the sidewalk. The limb tore and broke off. The guardian angel for trees in the city inspected the damage and declared it to be irreparable. This angel/arborist then went on to complete a formula that established the value of the subject tree. The math clearly demonstrated that the tree was worth $85,000. The insurance agent and the guys upstairs didn’t know what to do with this number or the claim. They knew they needed a forensic arborist, so they asked me to have a look. Formulas are always an intriguing venue for establishing value. Most formulas,…
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Creeping Normalcy

Insurance
This matter came to me as an insured was named a defendant in a multi-million dollar personal injury claim. The matter regarded a landscape installer who allegedly failed to properly secure a newly installed tree in a new landscape. The tree failed during a significant weather event at a theme park. The theme park was joined in the suit as were other parties. My retaining defense attorney called me exactly 13 minutes before plaintiff's attorney called me for the same assignment. The stage was set as both law firms had used me in the past, and while there is great capital in working under oath in a scenario where both law firms have used the same expert, there is also great debt associated with the scenario. The plaintiff walked from…
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Ten Commandments (Recommendations) of Settling Tree Claims

Insurance
Across my desk came the assignment for the insured claim of irreparably damaging a protected tree during construction. It seems as though the construction personnel, shall we say, drifted across the tree barricades and smacked a protected tree but good. The government arborist cited code violations and a six-figure number for mitigation. There were pictures. Lots of them. And, yes, there was damage for certain. But was the damage irreversible or irreparable? And what of the fine for the tree loss, to the extent the tree was a total loss? The adjuster was justifiably confused. If the damage were to a car, there would be no questions as to clarity. What is the year, make, and model of the car? How many miles had been racked up? What condition was…
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Homeless and Hungry. Lessons First Learned. And the Government Can’t Feed Me

Homeless and Hungry. Lessons First Learned. And the Government Can’t Feed Me

Stories of Life
As both fists of my father’s hands hit the dining table, drinks from the three couples’ gilded glasses spilt onto the fine linen tablecloth below. “You did what?”  While his crescendo may not have matched that of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, it nonetheless made a riveting impression on those in attendance. Good guests all, everyone, including my mother and I, sat silent. I was amazed, having never before seen this side of my father’s behavior. Others had seen this type of reaction before in others, as evidenced by the betrayal on their faces. But not me. I had just witnessed what a group of incredulous people looked like. I was in the fourth grade and had much to learn. That night I would learn much. It seems…
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CAMs – Beware Mount Mulch-More

CAMs – Beware Mount Mulch-More

Stories of Life
If you are a Community Association Manager (CAM) or someone charged with the responsibility of managing landscapes, you have a rough and rugged road upon which to travel. And tradition informs us that many have lost their way; few have become independently wealthy and most dread the subject of landscape maintenance. This is especially true in warm weather regions where plants grow year-round. It does not matter what your job title or your job description is. You are the manager of a tree farm and plant nursery. You have as many or more trees and plants in your client’s property than most tree farms or plant nurseries grow in their entire inventories. The owner of the tree farm and plant nursery is your client: the association’s Board of Directors.  Your…
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A FAREWELL TO MAGGIE: FAT CATS AND BUSBOY BUCKETS

A FAREWELL TO MAGGIE: FAT CATS AND BUSBOY BUCKETS

Stories of Life
When the phone rings after midnight, it is typically bad news. This phone call was no exception.  I was driving with a million other people along an interstate trying to beat hurricane Florence to the punch and return home prior to her landfall. Had I heard that Maggie died?   My senses were immediately arrested as the chords of memory played out along a well-traveled highway with no gasoline or place to eat or sleep. And if anything went through my mind, it was the lessons learned from a waitress in a restaurant long before most readers of this post were born. Maggie was not any waitress. And the restaurant where we worked together was not just any restaurant: The Gulf View restaurant was a place where fat cats went…
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