A man, who sustained multiple injuries when a rotted tree branch fell on his car, has been awarded $765,000 compensation for catastrophic injuries by a Columbia County jury.
Bill Kocher from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, was driving to work along the main road in the village of Lightstreet when, in July 2010, a branch separated from a rotted tree stem and crashed down on top of his car.
Bill spent sixteen days in intensive care receiving treatment for a series of catastrophic injuries which included a collapsed lung, a fractured sternum, a broken humerus and broken ribs. He had to undergo surgery to insert an intramedullary nail rod and skin grafts on his chest.
After his discharge from hospital, Bill sought legal advice and claimed compensation for catastrophic injuries against the owner of the property outside which the tree was located, and the township of Lightstreet – alleging that both had a duty of care to remove dangerous branches that posed a threat to public safety.
Both defendants denied their liability for Bill´s injuries. The homeowners stated that it was not their responsibility to maintain a tree outside of their property – the tree being situated between the sidewalk and the main road – and the township claiming that they had a responsibility to maintain the roads but not the trees that grew alongside them.
However, at Columbia County Court, the jury was told that the tree in question was located five feet away from the homeowner´s front porch and that they had conducted maintenance on it previously. The jury also heard that, under the township´s maintenance program, crews routinely removed dangerous branches that were a public hazard.
The jury found both defendants jointly liable for the injuries that Bill sustained, and awarded him $765,000 compensation for the catastrophic injuries he had suffered due to the defendants´ negligence – the second largest settlement of a personal injury claim to be awarded in Columbia County.