Massachusetts Law About Neighbors and Trees
MGL c.87, s.11. Injury to trees of another person. Provides for "imprisonment for not more than six months or... a fine of not more than five hundred dollars."
MGL c.242, s.7. Willful trespass to trees, etc.; damages. Violatars are "liable to the owner in tort for three times the amount of the damages assessed therefor."
No Trespass Order, Constable Service.
Glavin v. Eckman, 71 Mass. App. Ct. 313 (2008). Martha's Vineyard property owners and their tree contractor cut down ten mature trees on a neighbor's property to improve their own view of the ocean. The court upheld a jury award granting the wronged property owner the $30,000 replacement cost of the trees, rather than damages measured by the worth of the timber or diminution of the property's value.
Jones v. Town of Great Barrington, 273 Mass. 483 (1930). Town was liable for injuries caused by a falling tree where the town, "although notified of its condition, had permitted to stand within the limits of the way for so long a time and in so decayed and dangerous a condition that it constituted a nuisance: ... that the tree was within the exclusive control of the tree warden ... and that his power to remove the tree was limited and prescribed by the terms of G. L. c. 87, did not relieve the defendant of liability for the nuisance."
Kurtigan v. City of Worcester, 348 Mass. 284 (1965). City was held liable for damages caused by limbs of dead tree falling from property which city acquired for nonpayment of taxes. "Public policy in a civilized community requires that there be someone to be held responsible for a private nuisance on each piece of real estate, and, particularly in an urban area, that there be no oases of nonliability where a private nuisance may be maintained with impunity."
Levine v. Black, 312 Mass. 242 (1942). Court refused to grant an injunction barring one neighbor from cutting down a tree sitting on the property line, where evidence showed that previous work on the tree had reduced it to "a trunk and two limbs."
Macero v. Busconi Corp., Civil No. 99-03577E (Middlesex Super.Ct.), 12 Mass. L. Rep. 521 (2000). "Massachusetts law recognizes a right of self-help by which a property owner can cut the limbs or branches of a tree that invade his property as long as such cutting is done at the property line. A neighbor has the right to remove so much of the tree as overhangs his property....This court finds that this right to self-help is not confined to those parties who can show that their property was sufficiently damaged to justify their right to exercise self-help. The remedy is open to any party whose property is invaded by intruding boughs and roots."
Michalson v. Nutting, 275 Mass. 232 (1931). The owner of a tree is not responsible for the damage its roots cause to neighboring property, but the neighbor's "right to cut off the intruding boughs and roots is well recognized."
Ponte v. DaSilva, 388 Mass. 1008 (1983). "The failure of a landowner to prevent the blowing or dropping of leaves, branches, and sap from a healthy tree onto a neighbor's property is not unreasonable and cannot be the basis of a finding of negligence or private nuisance."
Ritter v. Bergmann, 72 Mass. App. Ct. 296 (2008). Clarifies that the "Glavin case does not require that there be a personal reason to support utilizing restoration cost as a measure of damages...Here, the damage to the Ritters that resulted from the cutting down of trees on the lot adjacent to their home was not only the potential loss in the value of the land that they hoped to sell, but the loss of their own privacy -- regardless of whether lot 11 was sold or retained."
Massachusetts Laws on Property Disputes Between Neighbors, Nolo.com. "A breakdown of Massachusetts laws on neighbor disputes involving trees, fences, the right to farm, and adverse possession."
Removing a Dying Tree: Who Bears the Cost?, Nolo.com.
Medoff, Bruce and Philip M. Hirshberg, "Liability Risks in Pruning a Neighbor's Tree", 24 Mass. Lawyers Weekly 1967 (June 3, 1996)
Neighbor and Nuisance Law, MCLE, 2009.
Trouble Next Door: What to Do With Your Neighbor, Oceana, 2007.