Can you imagine litigating the Garden of Eden?
There were enough issues and problems that Adam and Eve had regarding the protected fruit in the Garden of Eden. Fortunately for them and all concerned, no attorneys were involved in the population mix of individuals considering the consumption of produce in the Garden.
The lure of free tree-ripened fruits, vegetables, and nuts is indeed strong. This is especially true if the fruit does not belong to you, but instead belongs to your neighbor. And there it is – this beautifully organically grown produce hanging over your yard separated by the property line of you and your neighbor. How tempting. After all is said and done, your neighbor’s trees are growing over your property. However, should you decide to harvest, a euphemism for taking that which does not belong to you, this tempting prize, you may have a problem.
The first consideration goes to who owns the tree producing the bountiful harvest. It is the location of a tree’s trunk which determines ownership? If the trunk of the tree is not on your property, you do not own the tree, nor do you have picking rights. If the subject branches had ruined your roof, would you not want to be reimbursed from your neighbor? The tree belongs to him if the trunk is on his property.
By the same proverbial token, is your neighbor allowed on your property without your permission to pick up fruit from the ground or from the branches of his tree extending over your property? Don’t seek the answer from prior court decisions, because there aren’t specific laws on the issue. And what about fruit that has dropped off your neighbor’s tree onto your property? Who owns that fruit? The common practice seems to favor the neighbor’s claim to the produce that falls on the neighbor’s land. What about produce that falls onto a public area; can you pick that up and claim it as your own? Again, there is little written regarding this example; however, it is noted that in Mississippi it is a misdemeanor to gather pecans that have fallen onto public property during harvest season. After harvest season is officially over, the fruit is considered fair game.
Yet another way to look at this issue may be found in my open litigation files. There are more lawsuits from palm tree fronds falling from trees located on private property onto somebody’s head than all wrongful death or personal injury matters put together. Here there is no question: The owner of the tree is the owner of the frond that fell and injured someone.
Back to your apple pie. The best approach is probably purchasing the pie from your local baker. There’s far less chance of getting sued or being brought into some type of legal fray that way.
Has a neighbor’s produce caused you issues in the past? If so, how was the matter resolved?