Blog

Is the Whole Always the Sum of its Parts?

Insurance, Legal
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. 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 an insurance company wants to know if the tree subject to a claim had a defect, which, through the process…
Read More

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…
Read More

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…
Read More

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 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 expert witness is also the…
Read More

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…
Read More

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…
Read More

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…
Read More

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…
Read More

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,…
Read More

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…
Read More