The right to have sidewalks free of obstruction is something we take for granted. When sidewalks are impassable due to debris or unsafe pavement the government has an obligation to fix the situation.
In California the obligation to keep public sidewalks and streets clear of dead or dying branches, limbs or entire trees is often a shared responsibility between property owners and municipal agencies.
The failure to fulfill these responsibilities directly led to the tragic death of a young Marin County high school student in June.
According to the Marin Independent Journal, the victim was jogging on the sidewalk when she came across the tree, which had fallen across the sidewalk and shoulder of the nearby street, blocking her path. The 17 year old was forced to enter a busty adjacent roadway to get around the tree. As she tried to pass it, she was struck by an oncoming vehicle and lost her life.
The Walkup firm has now filed a claim against the City of San Rafael on behalf of the teen's estate.
The tree involved was a myoporum tree, which is vulnerable to insect invasion. Several myoporum trees near the accident location were obviously dead due to insects.
The claim alleges that the city of San Dafael knew of the problem and failed to act; and further, that the public entity had received two requests to remove the dead tree before the fatal collision occurred, so officials were well aware of the problem. Roads and sidewalks that are not properly maintained put us all at risk.