According to the New York Post article Tree-limb snap kills baby in Central Park, a tree branch fell on a mother holding her child, posing for a photo, at about 1:30 p.m. on a windless day at the Central Park Zoo, on June 27, 2010.
The branch, reported to be 18 inches in diameter and four feet long, was thought to have fallen from a height of 25 feet. Horrified witnesses heard a creaking sound and then the sound of the branch landing. The 6 month old baby was killed and the mother severely injured.
It is unclear if anyone is responsible for this accident, unfortunately not the first of its kind in Central Park.
Contrast the facts from another Central Park tree fall fatality on February 25, 2010. A man walking home after his shift working as a busboy was struck by a decayed American elm, which had been identified in December, 2009, as dangerous ("Priority 1 Immediate Attention"), by the Central Park Conservancy, manager of the Park property. The scheduled removal of the tree on January 13, 2010, did not occur. The snow fall in late February put added stress on its limbs. . .
New York courts have ruled on a variety of cases involving fallen trees and branches. It has been said: "A property owner will be held liable only if he or she knew or should have known of the dangerous condition of the tree". The Court of Appeals, New York State's top court has ruled on the issue, affirming a lower court that "it is established that no liability attaches to a landowner whose tree falls outside of his premises and injures another unless there exists actual or constructive knowledge of the defective condition of the tree" Ivancic v. Olmstead (1985).
A 1977 Court of Appeals case held: "Constructive notice may be imputed to the property owner if the record establishes that a reasonable inspection would have revealed the dangerous condition of the tree" Harris v. Village of E. Hills.
It should be clear from the above that NY "tree fall" cases, like most premises liability matters, are fact driven. When did the owner know, should have known, or could have known by reasonable inspection, about a dangerous condition on the property?
A suit based on the June 27 tree fall fatality will depend on whether facts are unearthed showing knowledge of a dangerous condition on the part of the Central Park Conservancy. It seems clear from the reports that the Conservancy knew of the danger related to the elm tree which killed the busboy in February. A wrongful death suit has been commenced in Brooklyn Supreme Court