Leave it to Layron: If a tree falls on your SUV and plenty of people are around to hear it, should you make a sound?

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. – You can hear the city of Deerfield Beach worker yelling in the cellphone video, "Hold it right there, Ray!” The other employee operating the backhoe pauses after lifting a massive tree limb from the top of Jerry Dunn’s Hummer SUV.

Dunn was then instructed to drive forward, freeing his SUV from the tangle of branches and leaves.

Dunn’s Hummer, though bruised, was not completely broken. It was still drivable after that tree limb to the roof. Dunn lives in Deerfield Beach and said he was visiting a friend when he decided to park across the street under the tree.

Minutes later, neighbors were knocking on the door with the news of the broken limb.

Dunn said it was a dry, windless day when the limb fell. He took photos of the tree and the limb that was left on the ground, the next day. Days later, the limb was removed and all that remained of the tree was a stump. The city had the tree cut down.

Dunn was also stumped.

"All I, basically, wanted to do was just say, 'Fix it’,” Dunn said.

It took a few calls, but Dunn figured out how to file a claim with the city. He said he sent in photographs to the city’s claim adjuster and third party administrator.

About a month later, he received a letter which read:

"All available evidence in this matter has been carefully reviewed...The available evidence is not sufficient to conclude the loss you reported was caused by negligence on the part of our client..."

“I take that as, basically, blaming me for parking [there]," Dunn said.

The letter went on to read:

…we must, with respect, decline to offer payment of your claim.

“There's no more evidence that I can see," Dunn said.

The Leave it to Layron team contacted the city of Deerfield Beach and learned the tree that was taken down was dry-rotted—information the team learned was not initially reported to the city’s risk management department.

A city spokesperson also told the Leave it to Layron team the information about the tree’s removal was not reported until after the team called prompting the city to revisit the issue.

A few days later, Dunn received another letter from the claim adjuster. The second letter read:

"It is our policy to have the maintenance department trim trees in the city...every 12-18 months. It appears that the trimming of this tree may have been overlooked and therefore we did not have constructive notice that there were issues with the health of this tree until you made us aware...Please be advised that we are amending our liability position concerning this matter and we are willing to take care of your vehicle damages..."

That second letter from the claim adjuster instructed Dunn to provide two repair estimates for the damage, for which the city says it would process payment for the lesser of the two amounts.

“Without you, it probably wouldn’t have happened,” Dunn said.

About the Author: