As is the case in cities across the country, dozens of residents annually report damage to their vehicles and property caused by snapped branches. Last fiscal year, 32 claims for damages were filed against Burbank, and 20 have been filed since July.
Frequently denied by the city’s risk management division in conjunction with the City Attorney’s office, residents such as Manukian are usually only left with the option of filing complaints in small-claims court.
Manukian, 43, filed her claim Aug. 28. Workers with the city’s Forestry Services division trimmed the tree on Sept. 9.
A week later, the professional musician received a claim review disclosing no liability on the part of the city or any of its employees. According to state law, the city is liable only if it creates or maintains dangerous conditions and has been notified within a reasonable time to correct it.
Manukian maintains that the tree was unhealthy.
After sustaining some $3,500 in damages, plus deductibles and rental car charges, Manukian has joined a growing list of residents put in the tough position of having to sue for damages despite having little or no evidence to provide the court. In small claims, the individual bringing the complaint must prove negligence on the part of a city.
The city, which adheres to a policy of checking each of its trees at least once every five years, keeps forestry investigation documents private, citing pending litigation, said Jan Bartolo, deputy director of Park, Recreation and Community Services.
“Why can’t I see the report?” Manukian said. “This is not a murder mystery, or a homicide case.”