IADC members Jennifer Cooper, Baker Donelson, Atlanta, Ga., Ken Meyer, McCarter & English, Newark, NJ and Jim Kochinski, General Counsel for Crawford & Company, Inc., Atlanta, recently secured summary judgment in U.S. District Court in Newark for Crawford, and its adjustor, who appraised the claim of homeowners in Brick, NJ involving a 100-foot oak tree that fell in their yard during Superstorm Sandy.
After the adjuster visited the property, two neighbors cut up the tree trunk. The tree’s massive root ball was left tipped up in the air after the rest of the tree (the counter-balance) was removed. For unknown reasons, the plaintiff’s husband was in the hole weeks later, on Thanksgiving morning, and was tragically crushed to death in front of his wife when the root ball suddenly fell on him.
Plaintiff was seeking an eight figure settlement. John Vasquez, U.S.D.J. determined that the question of whether an adjuster had a duty to warn the homeowners of a dangerous condition, which did not even exist at the time of the appraisal, was moot, and held that the actions of the adjustor were not the proximate cause of the man’s death. He concluded that the neighbors’ actions were a superseding, intervening cause.
Also assisting with the case was Matthew Leonard, an associate at Baker Donelson.