City of San Diego ordered to pay $7.6M total over palm tree that crushed man's legs
Michael Burke rendered paraplegic due to incident
Last Updated: 153 days ago
SAN DIEGO - A jury Friday awarded more than $7.6 million in damages to a Mission Hills attorney who was rendered a paraplegic when a giant palm tree fell on him outside his home, crushing his legs.
Michael Burke suffered paralysis of the lower half of his body on Jan, 21, 2010, when the 60-foot, 2,600-pound, Queen Palm toppled following a four-day storm.
Burke sued the city of San Diego, claiming it was responsible for the accident because it had cut back on yearly inspections and maintenance of trees due to budget constraints.
On Monday, the jury agreed and Friday awarded Burke and his wife, Edith, millions of dollars in lost earnings and medical expenses.
Burke was awarded $7.1 million for medical costs, lost earnings, future medical expenses and past losses. Additionally, Burke's wife was awarded $500,000 for "loss of love and companionship."
Outside court, Burke thanked the jury for finding the city liable.
"I sincerely hope that this will help bring about a restoration of tree-trimming inspections in San Diego and Mission Hills and in other parts of San Diego, and hopefully help this from happening to anybody else," Burke told reporters. "Nobody else has to go through what my family and I have had to go through."
In the trial's first phase, jurors found that the Queen Palm was in a "dangerous condition" when it fell on Burke.
The jury also found that the city had notice of the tree's condition with enough time to do something about it.
City attorneys told the jury that the tree toppling was an "act of God" that could not have been foreseen. They said the city never received complaints about the condition of the tree before it fell.
Spokesman Jonathan Heller said the City Attorney's Office will confer with its attorneys who handled the case, as well as the City Council and the city's insurer, to determine the next step.
"The case is far from over at this point," Heller said.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. City News Service contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.