Two people were killed in an ATV accident in Webster County around 5:00 PM, Sunday, July 13th. Jordan Michal Ulicki, 21, of Fort Dodge, was driving the vehicle, and Sadie Ray Foreman, 20, also of Fort Dodge, was a passenger. They were traveling north on South River Road near Fort Dodge when a tree to the east fell across the roadway and hit the four-wheeler. Both driver and passenger were pronounced dead at the scene. Neither was wearing a helmet.
Two killed in ATV accident in Webster County
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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).