“A tourist visiting the Bay Area for Fleet Week last year was doing nothing more than reading and napping under a tree in a federal waterfront park in San Francisco when a 16-pound pine cone fell on him and crushed his skull, his lawyer said Monday.” According to the suit, coniferous Araucaria bidwillii trees, “more commonly known as bunya pines or false monkey puzzle trees…are not indigenous to the area” and their “seedpods, or pine cones, can grow to enormous sizes, reaching nearly 16 inches in diameter and weighing up to 40 pounds.” [SFGate] “Living under Bunya Pines is not for the faint hearted,” advises one 2014 account from Australia, where the trees are native. “You get a little bit of warning when they fall, says a farmer who has five old ones near his house. “They clatter through the branches, and you just start running.”
Discontent at a land-use control process perceived as “condescending and obnoxious” helped fuel a surprise voter revolt in affluent Chevy Chase, Md., just across the D.C. border in Montgomery County. [Washington Post] Aside from intensive review of requests to expand a deck or convert a screened-in porch to year-round space, there are the many tree battles:
[Insurgents] cite the regulations surrounding tree removal as especially onerous. Property owners seeking to cut down any tree 24 inches or larger in circumference must have a permit approved by the town arborist and town manager attesting that the tree is dead, dying or hazardous.
If turned down, residents can appeal to a Tree Ordinance Board, which applies a series of nine criteria to its decision, including the overall effect on the town’s tree canopy, the “uniqueness” or “desirability” of the tree in question and the applicant’s willingness to plant replacement trees.
While in a perfect world all risks could be avoided, in the actual world we live in, life comes with risks that may be unavoidable, obvious, or both, Ontario’s highest court has unanimously ruled. It declined to assign liability to the town of Cayuga over a 2001 incident in which a teenager climbed a popular climbing tree in a public park, fell off, and was rendered a paraplegic. He sued, saying the town should have taken measures such as prohibiting climbing or warning of danger.
“Trees, being by their very nature things which can be climbed and therefore fallen from, are potentially harmful,” the court said. “Any danger posed by this tree was an obvious one. If you chose to climb it, you could fall and be injured.”
A lower court judge dismissing the suit in 2013 declined to create a municipal duty to prevent injuries by developing and enforcing a ban on tree climbing in the park. “There has to be a reasonable limit to such prohibitions on human activity,” he said. [Toronto Star; note the pioneering 2003 English case Tomlinson v. Congleton Borough Council discussed here and here]
- Price of California eggs soars following animal-rights measure [WSJ via Michael Greve] “An Orangutan Has (Some) Human Rights, Argentine Court Rules” [Brandon Keim, Wired via Althouse, related U.S.]
- Trees cut down by utility “are priceless — each one I could value at $100K,” Fieger said” [Detroit Free Press via @jamestaranto, more on Geoffrey Fieger; henceforth sums of $100,000 will be known as “one Fieger-tree”]
- As New Englanders struggle with energy costs, pols kill the gas pipelines that could bring relief [Urbanophile]
- Power-plant regs from EPA, based on flimsy science, show “federal agency twisting statutory language to aggrandize its own power.” [Andrew Grossman; Cato brief in Michigan v. EPA]
- California state agency proposes regulations purportedly easing burdens of notorious Prop 65 warning law [Cal Biz Lit]
- “When I got there, there were people in SWAT attire that evacuated our entire factory.” [Chamber’s Faces of Lawsuit Abuse on Gibson Guitar raid]
- Would a minimalist state funded by Pigouvian taxes run a budget surplus? [Bryan Caplan]
- Falling tree limb injures woman, jury orders city of Savannah to pay $12 million [Insurance Journal]
- Dept. of Interior mulls lowering threshold for federal recognition of Indian tribes [AP]
- Section 230: “The Law that Gave Us the Modern Internet, and the Campaign to Kill It” [Derek Khanna, The Atlantic]
- Interview with false-memory expert Elizabeth Loftus [Slate]
- “No meaningful costs or downsides” to the Microsoft antitrust case? Really? [Tom Bowden]
- NSA covertly intervened in standards making process to weaken encryption standards [Mike Masnick, TechDirt] After being rebuffed by public opinion in quest for dragnet surveillance programs, NSA quietly put programs in place through other channels [Jack Shafer; related, Ken at Popehat]
- Given the limitations of litigation, better not to lament the shortcomings of the NFL concussion settlement [Howard Wasserman]
- Better hope a Portland municipal arborist never takes an interest in you [Tod Kelly, League of Ordinary Gentlemen]
- California’s Prop 65 and Gresham’s Law of Warnings (bad warnings drive out good) [David Henderson]
- Bombshells just keep on coming in the Ecuador Lago Agrio story: “Litigation finance firm in Chevron case says it was duped by Patton Boggs” [Roger Parloff, Fortune; last Saturday’s bombshell] Grounds for embarrassment at CBS “60 Minutes” [CJR]
- Brad Plumer interview with Jonathan Adler, “What conservative environmentalism might look like” [WaPo]
- “The light-bulb law was a matter of public policy profiteering” [Tim Carney via @amyalkon] To get ahead in D.C., a well-known conservative group adopts some concrete priorities [same]
- “No one’s tried that. It’s not worth taking the risk.” Social-conservative, environmentalist themes have much in common [A. Barton Hinkle]
- “BP Loses Bid to Block ‘Fictitious’ Oil Spill Claims” [Amanda Bronstad, NLJ; more]
Great moments in blame-shifting: In Dade City, Fla., an ex-con with cocaine and other drugs in his system tried to outrun the cops in a high speed chase, then veered into a farm neighborhood where he smashed his car into two trees on a one-lane dead-end private road, instantly killing himself and a passenger. Now the estate of his passenger (who was also on drugs) is suing 21 local residents who jointly maintain the private road, saying they should have kept it clear of trees and did not provide adequate signage. “There were no apparent visual roadway obstructions or environmental factors that would have contributed to this crash,” a report from the Florida Highway Patrol stated at the time. [Tampa Bay Times](& Alkon)
In Clyde Hill, Wash., a retired Seattle Mariners baseball player has won a ruling from the town that his neighbors must remove two trees that block what would otherwise be an “amazing view of Seattle’s skyline” from his property. “An appraiser hired by John and Kelly Olerud said their $4 million home would be worth $255,000 more if the rare Chinese pine and the Colorado spruce across the street were cut down and replaced with smaller plants. The Chinese pine’s value is estimated at more than $18,000.” [Seattle Times, Ilya Somin] In other tree removal news, an Ontario mother “is fighting to have oak trees removed near her child’s school, fearing that acorns could pose a deadly threat to students with severe allergies.” Local officials say it is unlikely the acorns would prove allergenic to a child unless eaten, which rarely happens given their extreme bitterness. The mother also says acorns “can also be used to bully and torment children.” [Toronto Star via Lenore Skenazy]
To get your power turned back on in the Rockaways, according to a spokesman for the Long Island Power Authority, you’re going to need a pre-inspection for your house not just from a licensed electrician, but from one licensed in NYC — nearby Nassau County, or upstate, won’t do. If occupational licensure makes any sense at all — and Milton Friedman had a thing or two to say about that — it certainly needs to be reconsidered under conditions of public emergency and disaster recovery, or so I argue in my new post at Cato at Liberty.
For more background on the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) as a political football, by the way, check out Nicole Gelinas in the New York Post. Also on disaster recovery, why this might be a good time to rethink municipal ordinances barring property owners from removing old trees [Chris Fountain]. And: “Can customers sue power companies for outages? Yes, but it’s hard to win” [Alison Frankel, Reuters]