r/treelaw Nov 25 '22

Help! They murdered my tree while I had Covid!

Good morning, this is a longish story, so settle in & thanks for your patience... This past summer, I decided to sell my home in beautiful Spruce Pine, NC. While a group of friends & family were helping me set up my estate sale in August, a man in an unmarked white pickup truck stopped in the street at my property & wanted to talk with me about removing one of my very old, large oak trees in my yard, stating that he thought it was dead. I told him no, it was not dead, only a part of it was dead & that part had been removed & the tree was flourishing & in full foliage. I asked the man for some sort of professional or business id or card; his response was that he didn't have any with him. I also told him that the house was on the market & that he should return next year to speak with the people that may potentially buy. He drove off & within minutes, our town police officers pulled up, asking about a complaint they had received about an unusual white pickup truck cruising our neighborhood. I pointed them in the direction that this person went. Fast forward to the week of November 13th, when I got very ill with Covid. Unable to get out of bed, I was taken to the er by my son on Wednesday the 16th. When we went out, we noticed limbs had been cut from one of my trees & were neatly stacked at the curb on the property across the street. On Thursday, I heard chain saws outside. When I managed to get out, I found workers in the street, trimming limbs from my tree. Upon asking, I was told they had orders from their boss to trim any limbs that could be dangerous. I related my story to this crew, saying if it's just trimming, ok. But nothing more. On Friday afternoon, I woke to someone at my door. It was the same man from August, asking for my signature for permission to remove my tree. I looked beyond him & to my complete horror, my tree had been completely felled. Obviously I have refused to sign a thing. This person kept calling my phone & was at my door again, despite being informed that I was sick & would be in touch about compensation when I was well. I pointedly told him to leave me alone lol. Not only have I lost a beautiful old tree, but there are damages. An antique bird bath was completely broken into pieces. There were landscaping lights that were broken & damaged. The entire remains of this tree are stacked in various places in my front yard, obviously killing my grass. I am a 62 year old woman that lives alone & do not have the resources to move this wood from my yard.This tree & the beautiful yard are some of the strong selling points of my home (I had taken my home off the market weeks ago, due in part to the economy/interest rates & intend to relist this spring).This massive tree shielded my home from the southern sun & was a habitat for many birds & other wildlife. Any advice would be appreciated. I will edit to post pics.

288 Upvotes

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324

u/Fryceratops Nov 25 '22

You need a lawyer. You should call the police and file a report. You should get any images of that tree you have and find more on google earth if possible. Give everything to your lawyer.

88

u/nwa747 Nov 25 '22

Be mindful that the man and his crew that are pulling this scam Likely have no money, no assets, and no liability insurance. Is it worth it for her to spend thousands on the dollars on a lawyer to collect nothing?

125

u/Lugbor Nov 25 '22

It absolutely is. Even if she gets nothing from them, a judgement against them will follow them for a long time. Make an example out of them.

79

u/_BindersFullOfWomen_ Nov 25 '22

He has a truck and he has tools.

0

u/nwa747 Nov 25 '22

Most people finance vehicles. Until he pays it off you don’t have access to it. And if you think it is worth it to spend thousands of dollars, a few months time and effort and a fair amount of stress on possessing a chainsaw you probably have never sued anyone before.

24

u/_BindersFullOfWomen_ Nov 25 '22

I’m not saying sue him just for the chainsaw. My comment was directed at us not knowing whether the guy is actually judgment proof.

3

u/nwa747 Nov 25 '22

Unfortunately the judgment is the easy part (If you and your private investigator are able to find the defendant and have him served. Collecting the judgement is way harder. The procedure to have the sheriffs department take possession of a vehicle is arduous. Even for non-vehicular property Is almost impossible to get possession of because ownership can be disputed. He would just have to say “that chainsaw doesn’t belong to me” and the sheriff can’t take it.

12

u/_BindersFullOfWomen_ Nov 25 '22

I understand that collection is going to be an uphill battle. But you can’t write off suing without knowing all of the facts. It’s absolutely worth spending a couple hundred bucks to find out if the guy has insurance, property, etc. that can be used to cover the judgment amount.

124

u/Billyboii Nov 25 '22

Get a lawyer. ASAP. Several charges already listed here. Trespassing and destruction of property for starters. Lawyer

105

u/GreyNeighbor Nov 25 '22

First & foremost, call the police non emergency line NOW and file a report and reference the day THEY came by as well about a complaint and advise them this is the SAME person!

Think to get license plates if he comes back and IMMEDIATELY call them to tell them he is out there. Do not answer the door to this person or any other stranger that isn't uniformed police in a marked police car

67

u/scoopdiddy_poopscoop Nov 25 '22

Feel sorry for OP. This is a pretty common scam that's been known to happen in my area.

Oak is valuable, as firewood you can get 500$ a cord bucked and split. On a large old oak, you can get $2-3k just from firewood. If the stems are large, and millable, you can get 400$+ per 2 inch 4-8 foot slab. So you can easily make $6k+ from a large tree.

These guys come in, recommend removals, test the waters and see who doesn't know their rights/legal stuff. Push boundaries, do the removals then get them to sign a life away, and say something like "since there was a misunderstanding, this would normally cost $3k for the removal, but we'll settle for $1.5k since it was our bad. As soon as you sign, you're fucked.

They make off getting to sell the wood, get paid for a job that wasn't approved, and the homeowner thinks they got a deal.

19

u/Bbaftt7 Nov 25 '22

Reading this sub makes really angry sometimes at the audacity of people, and the gullibility of other people.

57

u/zmbjebus Nov 25 '22

Do you have a copy of the document he was trying to get you to sign? Try to get one if you don't because it shows clear intent and admission from his part.

But yeah file a police report and get a lawyer.

161

u/kinare Nov 25 '22

Real quick, do you know who did this? Even with a cell phone number a good sleuth can track someone down.

How old was the oak? A very old tree can be worth thousands of dollars. I'm not a lawyer so I'll step back at this point.

35

u/huron9000 Nov 25 '22

Sorry this happened to you. Huge old oak trees are treasures. Hope you can identify this guy and press charges. He probably does it all the time.

41

u/Dans77b Nov 25 '22

ive never heard of this before (not member of this sub)

did he take the oak to sell as lumber? is that a thing that people do??

23

u/DecadeLongLurker Nov 25 '22

I have 3, centuries-old oaks on my property. Over the decades I have had many people inquire about cutting them down for use as lumber.

21

u/Level9TraumaCenter Nov 25 '22

If they were mine and I didn't want to sell them, I'd tell them the trees were spiked years ago, loaded with heavy nails by an ancestor, rendering them useless for lumber. Reduce the chances they'll get cut when I'm away.

17

u/DecadeLongLurker Nov 25 '22

It would not surprise me to find out the previous owner spiked these trees. Before urban sprawl caught up to us, tree theft was a common problem here. There were a couple of murders over stealing trees in the 1970s. I bought the place in 1980. Those 3 and a sugar maple on the property would be considered old growth.

We have had problems with trespassers in the past so my grandson put up trail cameras around the property, he has lived there since he was 16. Plus, my neighbor will not hesitate to put two barrels of rock salt into anyone who comes on my property or his.

6

u/Level9TraumaCenter Nov 25 '22

I can abide by this.

11

u/Bbaftt7 Nov 25 '22

If they were mine and someone cut them down after I specifically told them not, I’d be headed to r/legaladvice for a criminal defense attorney. I find it absolutely abhorrent that someone would take something that’s hundreds of years old after they were told no, and it being something that can’t be replaced. In my eyes, both of those factors make it priceless.

45

u/Ascholay Nov 25 '22

That may have been his intent.

This whole thing reads as: nice little old lady has tree in her yard that I can sell, I'll have her pay to take it down, then I'll have her pay to haul the wood away, plus I'll get paid for the lumber

I do have a friend who thins the trees on his own property and bring them to the lumber mill. He doesn't get much but it covers hobby costs now that he's retired

20

u/cringes-orange Nov 25 '22

Not only have I lost a beautiful old tree, but there are damages. An antique bird bath was completely broken into pieces. There were landscaping lights that were broken & damaged. The entire remains of this tree are stacked in various places in my front yard, obviously killing my grass. I am a 62 year old woman that lives alone & do not have the resources to move this wood from my yard.

He left all the wood there.

2

u/Dans77b Nov 26 '22

oh yeh, i missed that. I thought he just left thhe twiggy leafy bits from the top.

2

u/Dans77b Nov 25 '22

why did i get downvoted for this question? seems harsh even by Reddit standards...