SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Browne Greene (www.greene-broillet.com), Daniel K. Balaban (www.balaban-spielberger.com) and their clients, Michael and Edith Burke, held a press conference today prior to the start of trial in the Burkes’ civil suit for negligence against the City of San Diego (City). Michael Burke alleges that on January 21, 2010, a City controlled Queen Palm tree approximately 60-foot tall and weighing thousands of pounds fell over on him, crushing his legs and rendering him a paraplegic. The case is being tried in San Diego Superior Court, Department 62 before the Hon. Ronald L. Styn and the trial is expected to last two weeks with Court hours Monday-Thursday from 9:00 AM - Noon and 1:30 PM - 4:00 PM. Michael Burke vs. City of San Diego, Case No. 37-2011-00086969-CU-PO-CTL.
“Palm trees, like people, have a life cycle”
On the morning of January 21, 2010, Michael Burke (then age 57), who resides on Lark Street in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego, discovered that an approximately 60-foot tall Queen Palm tree had toppled over and fallen on his Toyota Camry. Needing to get to work, he called a friend for a ride. On the way, Burke realized that his computer and some files were in his car and they returned to get them. Before he could put the retrieved items in the car, a Queen Palm tree adjacent to the already toppled tree and similar in size also fell, crushing Burke’s legs in the process, rendering him a paraplegic and causing him lifelong debilitating injuries.
“Palm trees, like people, have a life cycle,” stated Browne Greene. “As they age, such as the 70-80 year old Queen Palms in Michael Burke’s neighborhood, they begin to show signs of distress and disease, including a diminished root structure, narrowing trunk, and unhealthy canopy, that will ultimately cause them to topple unless they are removed. For decades, the City of San Diego took care of its city controlled trees such as these. Then, starting in 2007, the City Council recklessly put an end to funding its private tree maintenance contracts, deciding to just rely on a public which had not even been informed of the decision instead of professional arborists to identify and report distressed trees that were in danger of falling.”
Browne Greene continued: “It was only a matter of time when one of the Queen Palms would topple, taking down anyone or any thing in the wake of its death throes. By abandoning its decades long chosen duty to maintain City controlled trees, the City of San Diego acted negligently, setting in motion the dangerous condition that ultimately destroyed Michael Burke’s legs. At trial, our goal will be to see that the City of San Diego is held accountable for its negligent actions and to see that justice is served for the Burke family.”
“Michael Burke’s case is going to trial because the City of San Diego has steadfastly refused to be accountable for putting our client in harm’s way,” stated Daniel K. Balaban. “As a member of the public, he had a right to rely on the City to properly identify, maintain and remove distressed trees under its control. The City of San Diego abandoned its duties to Michael Burke and must be held accountable for shirking its obligations to him and to the public in general.”
“What matters most to me, next to my wife and son, is that the people who live in San Diego or those who come to visit its many tourist attractions know that a Queen Palm tree could topple over on them at any time because there is no ongoing care and maintenance of City controlled trees, particularly the timely removal of those trees that are distressed or diseased,” said Michael Burke. “It’s time for the City of San Diego to step up to the plate and reinstate professional tree maintenance services which are truly essential to the public’s safety.”
Plaintiffs Michael and Edith Burke are represented by Browne Greene with the Santa Monica, CA. law firm of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP (www.greene-broillet.com); Tel. 310.576.1200; and Daniel K. Balaban and Andrew J. Spielberger with the Los Angeles, CA. Law firm of Balaban & Spielberger; Tel. 424.832.7677.
Defendant City of San Diego is represented by Deputy City Attorneys Jane Boardman and Keith Phillips; Tel: 619.236.6220.