On July 14, 2018, plaintiff, a 62-year-old man, attended the Elk Grove Summerfest at the Elk Grove Regional Park and was sitting near a band listening to music when a huge 4,500-pound tree branch fell 40 feet above, causing severe injuries to him including paralysis of his lower body (paraplegia). His wife was nearby and witnesses this terrible tragedy.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Park District and its arborist. The plaintiffs claimed the tree that caused the injuries had been previously identified as a hazardous tree in 2011. Plaintiffs proved that an improper flush pruning cut many years before the accident created an opening in the branch that created a pathway for decay fungi to destroy the wood internally and that a large hole that was visible from the ground for several years was a clear indicator of internal decay that should have been discovered and the branch removed several years before the accident. Again in 2017, the Park Manager stated “we keep losing limbs” and identified several trees to be pruned including the tree with the internally decayed branch. When the cost of pruning was told to him, the Park Manager did not follow through with an inspection and failed to remove the hazardous decayed branch. Within a year the branch broke and fell, causing severe life-changing injuries to the 63-year-old man and his wife.
He was happily married to his wife for 38 years. By extensive therapy and support from his family, he can walk a few steps but is essentially bound to a wheelchair and has neurogenic bladder and bowels for the rest of his life.