Today, it was reported, “The family of a 7-year-old Omaha [Nebraska] boy who died in 2010 when a falling tree branch struck his head has reached a settlement with two governments to receive $155,000.” The family had asked for $3 million. At least they received something for the life of their child.
The little boy lived on property owned by the Omaha Housing Authority. Reportedly, “OHA officials have said they were not sure whether the housing authority or the city was responsible for inspecting and maintaining the tree.” Well, maybe now they’ll figure it out because tragedies like this are preventable if governments do their jobs properly. That’s what other cities have started to figure out, as well.
In Illinois, metallic-green beetles have been "wiping out ash trees across the region” and “municipalities are spending thousands of dollars to remove and replace trees.”
“They have no choice but to spend the money on it because otherwise it becomes a huge liability,” said Julieann Heminghous, emerald ash borer outreach coordinator for the state.
Financially, it is more sound to remove trees before they fall and damage property or injure or kill someone, she said.
Similarly in New York City, following a devastating 3-part series about horrendous injuries and deaths due to falling trees in city parks, and “[a]fter years of declining budgets for the care of New York City’s street trees, city officials and lawmakers more than doubled the amount for the fiscal year that began" in July, 2012.
That’s a welcome change from the attitude of some city lawyers who, according to the earlier series,
[H]ave aggressively fought several of the cases, denying blame in what they called tragic accidents. They argued that the city was not required to regularly conduct state-of-the-art inspections to determine whether trees were rotting or disease-ridden.
As the Times also noted,
Tree-care experts say the testimony and records raise broad safety questions nationally. Preventive care of urban trees has been a budget casualty from Philadelphia to Chicago to San Jose. “It’s a problem here and everywhere,” said Douglas Still, the chief city forester in Providence, R.I. “Pruning programs are being cut, not increased.”
Some tree-care experts fear cuts will bring more accidents — and damage payouts. “It’s an old adage — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Randall Swanson, a forestry professor at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York. “Preventative measures can go a long way toward reducing the possibility of tree-related injuries.”