LAW OFFICES
KRUPNICK CAMPBELL, MALONE AND ROSELLI  
PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION

Mr. George Scott
Vice President
Plant Amnesty
906 Northwest 87th Street
Seattle, Washington  98117


 December 26, 1989



Dear George,

 I am pleased to provide you additional information concerning the jury verdict here in Fort Lauderdale.  Bobby Barcia was a 12 year old boy, living with his mother in a duplex in the Southwest section of Fort Lauderdale.  The area were he lived was heavily forested.  There was a large tree in the yard, believed to be a Java Plum, that he and other neighborhood children used as the neighborhood "climbing tree".

 Mr. Maggert, the owner, had purchased the duplex approximately three years before the accident.  He testified at trial that he had noticed dead branches in and around the tree prior to the accident.  However, he denied that he had any knowledge that young people in the neighborhood used the tree for climbing.

 On the day in question, Bobby Barcia was climbing alone in the tree.  He was 14 to 16 feet above the ground, standing on a large limb about 6" in diameter and reaching for a limb about as big around as a baseball bat.  When he attempted to pull himself up to the upper limb, the limb broke.  He fell to the ground and was rendered quadraplegic.

 Bobby Barcia gets around now with a walker and a wheelchair.  However, all four extremities are affected.  Immediately following the accident, we called in an expert horticulturist, Mr. Perry from Tampa.  He told us the subject three had been abused and "hatracked" in the recent past.  He said the national expert on tree abuse of this type was Dr. Alex Shigo, whom we eventually contacted.  When Dr. Shigo examined the tree, he determined that it had been hatracked approximately five years previously and once it was hatracked, a profusion of weakly attached branches resulted at the locations where the tree had been cut.  These fast growing branches at the cut ends do not attach firmly to the tree.  Therefore, the tree was a trap for unwary climbers, because the branches appeared strong enough, but in fact, they were weakly attached.  Dr. Shigo further stated that any property owner could see that the tree had been abused if they merely stood on the ground and looked at it.

 Dr. Shigo was assisted by Way Hoyt, a very knowledgeable tree trimmer here in our area, who had attended many of Dr. Shigo's lectures on proper pruning and care for trees.

 State Farm Insurance Company insured the property owner with a $500,000 policy.  We offered to settle the case well in advance of trial for $200,000.  State Farm refused.  We went to trial solely on the issue of liability.  At trial, the jury determined that the property owner was 50% at fault, even though he had not had the tree cut improperly, but for maintaining the tree on his property.  The mother was 15% at fault and Bobby was 35% at fault for his own injuries.

 Before we could try the case on damages, State Farm tendered their $500,000 policy and the case settled before Appellate review.]

 With the settlement proceeds Bobby Barcia was able to move out of the cramped apartment into a pleasant house in Plantation and has monthly income for his support and funds for his college education.

 As you might expect, Dr. Shigo was an extremely persuasive witness and the jury wholeheartedly accepted his testimony that tree abuse can lead to responsibility for the property owner.

 If there is anything that can be done to assist your organization, I am sure Bobby Barcia would be happy to lend his name and support to your efforts.

 I hope that this case assists you in your efforts to educate the public t hat treetopping is not only unsightly, but also dangerous and it can lead to civil liability.


Best Wishes,