Man suing city of San Diego after legs crushed by palm tree in Mission Hills

Mike Burke crushed by tree in January 2010

A local man is suing the city of San Diego nearly three years after his legs were crushed by a palm tree that came crashing down after a storm.

The incident occurred in January 2010 near the intersection of Lark Street and Fort Stockton Drive in Mission Hills in January 2010. 

Photos obtained by 10News show a palm tree after it crushed a car belonging to Mike Burke. Two hours later – as luck would have it – a different palm tree weighing thousands of pounds fell on top of Burke, crushing his legs.

In other photos which will be submitted as evidence, Burke's shoe can be seen lying in the roadway.

"This has rendered Mike in a wheelchair for life," said Burke's attorney, Browne Greene. "He has been told by doctors that he should have his legs amputated."

Greene shared the photos with 10News on Monday night, on the eve of the civil trial, which will begin on Tuesday.

The civil trial against the city of San Diego could seek several million dollars in damages. It also seeks for the city to do something with what Greene calls "hazardous" trees.

"The city accepted thousands of palm trees in the 1920s," said Greene. "The trees thrived and grew. They decided to walk away from their responsibility in 2007."

Burke, 59, is an attorney whose life changed when the tree came crashing down.

He now takes buses and trolleys to get to work and has met his share of challenges trying to care for his wife and 11-year-old autistic son.

"This boy depended on his father for support… emotional and physical," said Greene.

The palm trees that fell near or on Burke were just two of more than 350 trees that toppled over during the winter storms in January 2010.

Greene told 10News that he has tree experts lined up to testify as expert witnesses. He also has city workers who he will cross-examine on the witness stand.

10News contacted the San Diego City Attorney's Office, which said they are familiar with this case but cannot comment on it at this time.

The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

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