A Centerville police officer was injured when a large oak tree fell on him during a routine traffic stop around 11:15 PM on Wednesday May 7th. Officer Jeremy Veach had pulled over driver Candice Duffey for driving without headlights on and was standing beside the door of the vehicle she was driving, when the incident occurred. Officer Veach suffered minor scrapes and bruising, in addition to needing three stitches in his elbow. Ms. Duffey was also not seriously injured and did not receive a ticket. The SUV took the brunt of the damage from the tree, and the value of the damages is not yet available. The owners of the tree had no idea the tree would fall, as it appeared healthy and continued to sprout leaves every spring. However, Officer Veach later examined the base of the tree and determined that it was in fact rotting. Wind does not seem to have played a role in the incident, which was captured on video by the officer’s in-car camera.
Tree fell on police officer during traffic stop
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Meyers vs Delaney is Iowa's Tree Limb Case
It is the general rule that one who maintains trees owes a duty to avoid injuring persons on adjoining premises by permitting a tree to become so defective and decayed it will fall on them. 62 Am.Jur.2d Premises Liability § 689, at 260-61 (1990);see Israel v. Carolina Bar-B-Que, Inc., 292 S.C. 282, 356 S.E.2d 123, 127 (S.C.App.1987); Mahurin v. Lockhart, 71 Ill.App.3d 691, 692-93, 390 N.E.2d 523, 524-25 (1979). This, in essence, is the standard applied by the district court here. The Meyers' quarrel is with the corollary rule, applied by the district court, that proof of a tree owner's actual or constructive knowledge of a defect or safety hazard is a condition precedent to liability. See generally 62 Am.Jur.2d Premises Liability § 690, at 261-62 (1990).
We have not previously had occasion to address the scope of a private landowner's duty to maintain trees in a residential area. Nearly fifty years ago, however, we predicated a municipality's analogous duty on actual or constructive knowledge of a tree's dangerous condition. Pietz v. City of Oskaloosa, 250 Iowa 374, 377, 92 N.W.2d 577, 579 (1958). In Pietz we adopted the rule that "failure to remove a decayed tree does not constitute negligence in the absence of a showing that the decay was visible or known to the proper party." Id. Our decision rested on the idea that the city was expected to maintain its streets in a condition of reasonable—not absolute—safety for travelers. Id. We observed that a city could not be expected "to foresee and provide against every possible accident." Id. See also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 363(2) (1965) (requiring urban landowner to exercise reasonable care to prevent unreasonable risk of harm due to trees on land near highway).