Timber Trespass

Last week I wrote about trespassing neighbors, whose activities, structures, commercial activity, or personal property encroach onto your property. This week I am covering what happens when a neighbor – either negligently or intentionally – crosses onto another landowner’s property and cuts down a tree or trees. California, like many other states, see this as a particularly offensive civil wrong, and therefore has enacted a particular statute that sets forth how the wrong may be punished.
Civil Code section 3346 prohibits negligent or willful trespass onto the property of another for the purpose of cutting down trees, damaging trees, or taking timber. The judge or jury hearing such a case is permitted to consider not only the fair market value of any merchantable timber, but also the lost aesthetic value and functionality (such as providing shade) of a fallen or injured tree. Double damages, meaning twice the value of the tree or trees, are to be awarded when the defendant acted negligently. If the tree or timber owner can establish that the defendant’s conduct was willful or malicious, the plaintiff is entitled to treble damages.
Believe it or not, being situated behind the Redwood Curtain, Janssen Malloy LLP’s attorneys not only have experience litigating timber trespass cases, but even have represented plaintiffs bringing such claims and in other cases have defended individuals who have mistakenly cut down their neighbors’ tree. In addition to the threat of double and treble damages, these cases can involve interesting issues of expert arborist or forester testimony, and especially in residential cases, high levels of emotion. Contact our firm to schedule a consultation if you have been involved in a timber trespass.