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Jun 04

Are Court of Appeal Judges "Tree Huggers"?

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

In 2006, an elderly lady was leaving her niece’s home when she slipped on a gumnut on well paved and maintained steps.

Initially the District Court of Queensland found that the lady’s niece and husband should have kept the flowing gum trimmed, or had it removed because they were aware that leaves and gumnuts fell onto the path. While acknowledging that the niece and her husband maintained the path and swept it regularly, the District Court ruled that they should have had the tree trimmed or removed.

The matter was then appealed. The Court of Appeal, while not quite calling the decision of the District Court “nutty”, overturned the decision.

The Court of Appeal looked at the history. The elderly lady’s niece and husband (the homeowners) had owned the house for about six months and the elderly lady had been visiting them regularly, babysitting their 3 year old child. She knew that the path sometimes had gumnuts on it. Further, the previous owners of the property had owned the property for some 14 years and the gumtree had always been there and there had never a similar incident.

The Court of Appeal then turned green. They cited the fact that trees in a suburban backyard, although sometimes too large for those backyards, provide “shade and shelter, act as wind breaks, help retain soil, provide or improve privacy and attract birds and other wildlife. The Court said that the aesthetic and ecological desirability of trees in suburban gardens outweighs any requirement for removal of trees if any entrant to a residential premises slips on a natural hazard, which is readily apparent.

The Court overturned the original decision and found for the homeowners.

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