Michigan lawmakers update old adage

By Eric Freedman

An old philosophical question asks, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” But a more practical question today might be: “If your neighbor’s tree falls on your roof, who is responsible for the damage?”

A new House bill tries to answer that question. It would make the owner of the property where the tree was growing responsible for any damage “caused by any part of the tree falling on the adjacent property, regardless of whether the tree falling was an act of God,” such as heavy winds or lightning. “Currently, if a neighbor’s tree falls in your yard and smashes your fence, you as an innocent homeowner are liable, and this isn’t right,” said Rep. Ryan Berman, R-Commerce Township, the lead sponsor of the proposal. That may mean the innocent neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance policy may cover the damage, but a claim could lead to higher insurance premiums, he said.