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The City of San Diego wants to take another shot at convincing a jury that they should not be held responsible for the palm tree that fell on Michael Burke's legs during a in January 2010 storm.

Last December, a jury found the City was liable for the injuries that left Burke without use of his legs, awarding the Mission Hill resident $7.6 million in damages.

Burke claimed that in search of a balanced budget, the City cut back on basic public services such as maintenance on street trees.

The City Attorney disagrees. He argues that the property owner where the tree was planted is the responsible party. On January 31, the City requested a new trial. Two weeks later, according to the San Diego Superior Court website, the City filed another motion, this time to "strike or tax costs" rendered in the judgement.

On Tuesday, the City Attorney will meet behind closed doors with the City Council and Mayor Bob Filner to update them on a hearing earlier that day and seek direction in the case.

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fobesq March 10, 2013 @ 6:29 p.m.

I agree. This requires a new trial.


Visduh March 11, 2013 @ 7:56 a.m.

This doesn't appear to provide the grounds the city will pursue in its motion for a new trial. A loser in court needs something more than merely not liking the outcome of a trial to ask for a new one. Considering how costly city negligence has become in recent years, there's plenty of reason to think that this is just another one of many costly "accidents" that the city has had to pay for. Personally, since I don't know the people involved or the location of the tree fall, I don't claim to know whether this is fair or not. But getting a new trial will require that the city attorney have some demonstrable reason to claim the trial was fatally flawed. Good luck with that, Jan!


tomjohnston March 11, 2013 @ 10:32 a.m.

Based on available photos, it seems clear that the trees in question were planted between the sidewalk and the curb, which is city property. A spokesman for the city attorney was quoted as saying "It would be impossible to inspect every tree in the right of way, and the law does not require cities to do so.", the deputy city attorney said"“There is no way anyone, including the city of San Diego, can predict if a tree will fall during a storm, which tree may fall during a storm, or when a tree may fall during a storm,”, and an arborist said the palms had been there since the '20's or '30's. Can't really see where the city has grounds for a new trial. Unless, of course, the city wants to claim that it had inadequate legal representation, at the first trial, which based on what I've been reading lately could actually be true. LOL


BlueSouthPark March 11, 2013 @ 11:06 a.m.

I don't think the City has a chance of winning this suit. The co-defendant in the suit was West Coast Arborists. This company was a co-defendant because Mr. Burke pays into a MAD (the Washington Street MAD), and WCA did the palm tree maintenance by contract with San Diego Park and Recreation.

The Washington Street MAD Engineering Report states the MAD's purpose is "to provide for the maintenance of landscaped medians, rights-of-way, and slope improvements") - as with all MADs, above and beyond the general services of the City. WCA and the contractor, the City, were supposed to be providing particular and special attention to every tree in the PROW in the assessment district.

Having seen WCA in action in Greater Golden Hill (district dissolved by the court), I know what a joke their contract for special services might be. Despite contracting for tens of thousands of dollars in contracts with each of the many MADs throughout San Diego, the workers may blow through, do make-work, and disregard municipal codes and requirements.

I'm sure the City will soon be suing WCA, just as they sue any contractor involved when the City loses a lawsuit. I believe WCA is involved in other, similar lawsuits in the County.


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