Man Paralyzed by Palm Tree Wins Lawsuit Against City of San Diego

A man paralyzed by a fallen palm tree has won in a lawsuit filed against the City of San Diego.

Michael Burke suffered serious injuries when a Queen Palm tree along Lark Street fell on his legs in January 2010. He lost the use of his legs and blames the city for improper inspections. 

The jury in the civil suit agreed with Burke that the city was liable for his injuries. He has undergone 14 surgeries since the tree fell, and will likely undergo amputations due to the severity of his injuries, according to his attorneys.

The trial will continue this week to determine the damages the city will pay. 

Defense attorneys argued that a homeowner -- not the city -- owned the property and the tree that fell on Burke. The City Attorney's office also pointed out more than 400 trees fell in three days of a major storm.

Burke’s attorney Browne Greene said the city "walked away from its responsibility" of caring for the trees amid budget cuts.

However, the defense said city workers only cut down trees if someone tells them there's a problem and in this case, nobody did.

City attorneys also told jurors when the city does trim palm trees, it’s not to keep them healthy but to simply remove berries before they fall.

Burke told reporters he filed the lawsuit because he’d like to see the city take steps to bring back trimming and inspection of palm trees

“I’m concerned for my family, for my wife, for my special-needs son but I’m also concerned for others. The danger still exists for people in the community of Mission Hills,” Burke said. 

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