In 2011, Pasadena was hit by a powerful storm carrying hurricane force winds that injured more than 5,000 City-owned trees, 2,000 of which were uprooted. During the course of the storm, an approximately 110 foot tall Canary Island pine tree located on City property fell on a private residence, causing severe property damage.
The homeowners’ insurer paid more than $700,000 in insurance benefits. As subrogee under the homeowners’ insurance policy, the insurer sued the City for inverse condemnation, under the California Constitution, on the theory that the City owned the tree and maintained and cared for it as part of the City’s tree protection regulations. The trial court agreed and found the City liable in inverse condemnation on the grounds that the tree that fell was a public improvement maintained for a public purpose, the damage to the residence was proximately caused by the improvements, and the City is strictly liable for the property damage. The court awarded the insurer approximately $800,000 in damages and $330,000 in costs.
On August 24, 2017, in Mercury Casualty Company v. City of Pasadena, __ Cal.App.5th __ (Case No. B266959 & B268452), the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District reversed the trial court judgment and cost order.