Boundary disputes are one of the most actively litigated areas of real property law. One common category of such disputes involves the trimming of a neighbor’s tree, either to remove branches that have grown over a property line or to maintain or improve views. While California law generally provides no right to an unobstructed view, an issue we previously addressed here, an adjoining landowner may reasonably trim the branches of a neighbor’s tree to the property line. Adjoining landowners may not, however, enter a neighbor’s property to abate the encroachment, and the potential cost of doing so just increased substantially.
On January 31, 2017, in a case of first impression, the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District ruled that annoyance and discomfort damages resulting from tortious injuries to timber or trees are subject to the statutory damage multiplier. Fulle v. Kanani, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2016) (Case No. B271240). The case involved contiguous properties, separated by a fence, in a hillside neighborhood of Encino. The plaintiff’s property contained five mature eucalyptus trees and a black walnut tree, all of which provided her with aesthetic benefits, shade, and privacy. The trees also partially blocked the defendant’s view of the San Fernando Valley. Shortly after acquiring his property, the defendant hired a work crew that entered the plaintiff’s property without her permission, cut the trees to approximately half their height, and removed all of their branches.