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When Cutting Down Trees Leads to a $36-Million Lawsuit in New York

Where would New York be without trees? Whether you are in NYC or a rural upstate area, everyone can agree that trees bring real value to the landscape. But how much are trees really worth? According to one lawsuit, even a relatively small cluster of trees could be worth up to $36 million. Of course, those trees are not actually there anymore, because a building company has cut them all down. This highlights an interesting issue in the world of real estate litigation: Can you be sued for cutting down trees in New York?

Luxury Home Builder Faces Major Lawsuit After Cutting Down 120 Trees

On December 23rd, it was reported that a luxury home builder in the Hamptons was facing a $36-million lawsuit for cutting down 120 trees. A Bridgehampton homeowner claims that the building company was trespassing when they broke out the chainsaws, had no right to be there, and lacked permission to cut down the trees. The plaintiff describes the trees as “arboreal assets,” and this might seem like a bit of a stretch. After all, trees aren’t exactly valuable… or are they?

As it turns out, trees are much more expensive than many people realize. Palm trees, for example, can cost thousands of dollars per vertical foot. The trees toppled in this instance are oaks, maples, and pines that are between 50 to 60 years old. The plaintiff claims that each of these trees was worth up to $100,000. However, the exact “value” of these trees is largely subjective. No one in their right mind would purchase a 60-year-old tree, uproot it, and transport it to a new location. Because of the fact that these trees are essentially immobile, their value is a reflection of how they increase the value of the property. Smaller, transportable trees typically cost a few hundred dollars at the very most. In addition, there’s no reliable way to estimate the exact age of these trees since no one was around when they first sprouted.

It is also worth pointing out that even if we go by the plaintiff’s calculations, the total value of these trees is only $12 million. To reach a settlement of $36 million, she is asking the court to treble the total based on punitive damages.

The truth is that developers often cut down trees without permission and without warning in New York. Usually, these incidents involve only a handful of “arboreal assets,” and the guilty parties face small fines and inconsequential lawsuits. But when developers cut down hundreds of trees while trespassing on other people’s land, the possibility of six-figure settlements is not altogether outlandish.

Where Can I Find a Qualified Real Estate Litigation Attorney in New York?

If you have been searching for a qualified, experienced real estate litigation attorney in New York, look no further than the Glassman Law Group. Whether you’re an average homeowner or you are building a major project, there are all kinds of legal issues that may come up in the world of real estate. Whether it has to do with trees, lease agreements, zoning disputes, or any other issue, you need help from an experienced lawyer if you want to achieve real results. Book your consultation today to get started with an effective action plan.


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