Amount of Settlement: $ 150,000
Date: March, 2011
Mediator: Brian Mone
Injuries alleged: wrongful death
Attorney for Plaintiff: Claudine A. Cloutier, Keches Law Group, P.C.
The deceased, age 69, was found dead the day after she learned that the trees lining her property were cut down. The Plaintiff claimed that the Defendant, who owned the property abutting the back of the decedent’s, had hired someone to remove the trees and that the trees were not on his property. The trees had been planted 40 years earlier by the deceased and her husband. Neighbors of the deceased as well as her son testified that the deceased was visibly upset after learning that the trees had been cut down.
Plaintiff’s medical expert opined that although there had been no autopsy, given the circumstances of her sudden death, she likely died of a heart attack or stroke and that the stress caused by her learning that the trees she planted with her husband had been cut down was a substantial contributing factor to her death. Defendant’s cardiologist testified that there was no evidence to suggest her death was caused by any such stress.
Defendant claimed that he hired someone to clean up the back yard, not to remove the trees and that no trees on the decedent’s property had been cut down. Defendant also claimed that the trees were on his property. The Plaintiff responded that even if the trees were originally on the neighboring property, the deceased had adversely possesed the land in the 40 years since the trees had been planted.
In addition to the wrongful death damages the Plaintiff also sought damages for the cost of the trees pursuant to M.G.L. c. 242 § 7, which allows for treble damages when “a person who without license willfully cuts down, carries away, girdles or otherwise destroys trees, timber, wood or underwood on the land of another.”
The decedent had three adult children who were not financially dependent upon her, one of whom lived with her at the time and two who lived out-of-state. The parties ultimately settled for $150,000.