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  • Property Damage Law

  • A property owner can suffer real estate and land damage that is caused by another in a variety of ways, including flooding, toxics, fire, explosions, or improper construction/design of buildings and land improvements. Often, personal injuries can also result in such cases. Following are some examples:

    LANDSLIDES, FLOODING, EROSION, MUD­FLOWS: A person, government or corporation can cause damage to the real estate of another by landslides, flooding, erosion or mud­flows, with resultant land/building failures. The flow of problem water can occur above ground as well as below ground. The surface flow of water can be caused by rivers/streams or water can simply flow across land. Unique experts in the area of surface water hydrology and/or groundwater hydrology must be employed depending on the specific source of water. Naturally occurring water flow is not actionable, but if there is any significant alteration of the natural flow of water by grading or drainage devices, etc., liability can be established. This type of damage can additionally cause increased susceptibility to damage in a future earthquake, which will result in a loss of property value and/or a need to rebuild and/or reinforce the land or buildings. Multiple causes of action are available to anyone damaged by water, including the powerful Inverse Condemnation cause of action ­ when a public project by a government or governmental agency is involved. Nuisance and trespass are available remedies against private and governmental defendants.

    TOXICS: First and foremost, an invasion of property by a toxic substance can cause serious personal injuries or death. In addition, toxic invasions cause real property damage ­ giving rise to expensive remediation costs and losses in property value. Toxic substances can be transmitted through the air, through soil, or through water ­ above or below ground. Such transmissions by others can give rise to a cause of action under several theories including negligence, nuisance and trespass. Individuals, corporations, and governments can be defendants in such a case.

    A common source of toxic invasion is by toxic mold. Toxic molds can grow and cause harm whenever a structure is internally exposed to moisture. This frequently occurs as a result of roof leaks, which can be caused by faulty roof construction, faulty roof design, or a failure to maintain roofs including such failure by a homeowners association in a condominium or co-­op development.

    DRY ROT: Invasion of a wooden structure by water can lead to the development of destructive dry rot. Dry rot is a fungal invasion which can eliminate the structural integrity of wood. This is repaired by replacement of the damaged wood: repairs can be costly. As with toxic molds, individuals, corporations including homeowners associations, and governments are all possible defendants in such a case.

    FIRE: If a person, corporation, or government causes a fire on the private land of another, they are liable under very distinct laws. Such fire damage often results in strict liability under little known statutes, or liability without the lengthy proofs required under other causes of action. Most attorneys are unaware that a trespass action can be maintained for an invading fire ­ even though there technically is no physical intrusion. Other causes of action include nuisance, nuisance per se, negligence, and others. For example, a public entity that causes a fire by fallen high voltage lines, can be liable in a cause of action known as Dangerous Condition of Public Property as well as Inverse Condemnation, Nuisance and Trespass.

    EXPLOSIONS: Explosions can create land damage and instability that may be immediately apparent, or damage that remains hidden until rains inundate the affected substrata. Because such harm can remain hidden, it is imperative that one affected by an explosion caused by another ­immediately seek legal counsel and allow your attorney to arrange for analysis by a geological and possibly other consultants.

    BUILDING/HOME DAMAGE: Damage to an actual structure may be caused by any of the above explained causes, or as a result of improper design or improper construction. Here, a building contractor and/or building designer can be found liable.

    In a case based upon building design or construction, if the damage is caused by a "latent" or unobvious means in construction or design, the statute of limitations (time limit to file such a lawsuit) is stretched out to 10 years from the time of construction. If the cause of damage is "patent" or obvious, the statute of limitations is 3 years.

    TREES: Damage to trees on your property is another very specific area of law that most attorneys are unfamiliar with and usually completely overlook. Unique and largely unknown statutes provide for a double measure of damages when the person causing the damage is negligent. If trees are damaged or destroyed intentionally, a triple measure of damages is dictated by these seldom used laws. Many are unaware that tree values can be in the area of tens of thousands of dollars each.

    In addition, damage by trees can become a significant issue. Failing/falling trees on a neighbor’s land can cause damage to your property or personal injuries because of improper maintenance & pruning, as well as issues that inhibit proper root development, water at the base of a tree, and more. It is important to monitor any neighboring trees that could potentially harm your property if it/they were to fall ­ or branches fall from them. It would be prudent to obtain a written arborist report on any trees at issue. Notify any neighbors with potential problem trees in writing as soon as you can by certified mail. This will serve to augment your case, should damage occur. Failing trees can cause serious personal injuries and death.

    Without a good working ability with these technical issues, an attorney is likely to fail.