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Firewood Lawsuit

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Gehl Family, May 16, 2011.

  1. Gehl Family

    Gehl Family New Member

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    Here is the scenario:

    Last fall, I was working on topping off the wood pile. I noticed some dead trees on my neighbor's property and asked for permission to take the wood. She (the wife) said the would be fine. To be careful and do not cut anything that is live. I cut down somewhere between 3 to 5 trees that were about 8 to 10 inches in diameter maybe 20 feet high. They were dead, but still standing. I might have gotten 2 facecord at the most.

    Fast forward to a month ago when my neighbor (the husband) came over very angry accusing me of cutting down his trees and tricking his wife into giving me permission. He can be a very difficult person to talk to esp. when he is mad. We had two "discussions" both of which ended when he became very vulgar and it was clear he was not looking to resolve the issue, just blow off steam.

    I had not heard anything in a couple weeks and then i got a letter in the mail stating he was suing me in small claims. He is suing me for $1200. The letter states that i "cut down live trees instead of dead ones." I have been heating with wood for a long time and I actually run a small log splitting service, so i know when i am dealing with dead wood. A live tree would have been of no use to me as i was using it to heat the house that same year.

    I know if i could get pictures of the stumps it would help my case, but i dont think i should go on the property even to "gather evidence."

    Have any of you had any experience with a situation like this? Any thoughts on how to move forward?

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  2. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    Wow, glad he's no neighbor of mine! I would try to get as much evidence as possible and would probably take pictures when they are not home.....he doesn't have his land posted does he? What's the wife have to say about her verbal consent? Doesn't the 6 month or so delay in approaching you on this come into play somehow?
  3. Thistle

    Thistle Minister of Fire

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    Not knowing all what went down,still seems odd that he waited 6 months to say anything.
  4. thewoodlands

    thewoodlands Minister of Fire

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  5. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    Awkward.

    I'd be really careful about putting the wife in the middle of this. She has to live with the SOB, and that can't be much fun. It sounds like a situation where she couldl pick up the tab if she's perceived by her DH as having turned against him.

    Given the way that scenario could play out, I'd take it to court, listen to what he has to say, present your case to the magistrate, and play it out that way. Hopefully, he'll tip his hand enough in court that justice will prevail. Then cut a really large pile of firewood, make a fence of it between your properties, and never have any dealings with them again.
  6. Stax

    Stax Minister of Fire

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    Wow...how ridiculous is this situation! Nope, can't say I've had. I would NOT trespass onto his property to take pictures after the fact. Not a good idea to break a law in an attempt to use circumstantial evidence. I would imagine court of law would only weigh expert testimony (Arborist, Botantist, etc.) regarding photos in a real case. This is a small claim. Depending on his presenting evidence, you could ask for a continuance based on the fact that because the trees were in your neighbors yard, and you were unable to take pictures after the fact without breaking the law. This statement is then followed by I don't have an expert with me today because I had no preparatory evidence.

    Here is where the problem lies in his argument. You were given PERMISSION and DISCRETION by the plaintiff's wife to cut trees down on his property that weren't live. I'd go to court and see what happens!
  7. joefrompa

    joefrompa New Member

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    I think the fact that he accused you of tricking his wife into givin you permission says it all. You asked, were given permission, cut down the trees, and he did not raise an objection for half a year or note any trickery or anything else.
  8. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Personally I would not worry about a thing. I think with you having some business that the judge would tend to listen to you, especially because he waited 6 months. In addition to that, why would the idiot send you a letter stating he was taking it to court? The sounds like a scare tactic because all he has to do it file the papers and then the court would notify you. Sounds like he is just a big blow hard and I would not worry any further. If you do still have some of the wood, you can take pictures of that.

    Another point: He says you tricked his wife. The main point is the wife did grant you permission. I do not see how a judge could rule against you. Sleep well tonight and worry no more.
  9. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Check google earth or other aerial photo sites to hopefully see the dead trees surrounded by other live ones. I've seen some obviously dead trees in aerial photos. You can see it in the canopy.

    Worst case is 1200$. You won't lose your home over this.
  10. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    Do you know how he came up with the $1200.00 in damages? Is he figuring that on getting replacement trees the same size?
  11. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

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    Some states have statutes regarding "timber theft" because loggers go over the property line all the time. Typically the payment is two or three times the commercial value of the stolen logs.

    Just saying even if the judge believes you didn't have permission, you might only be liable for a trivial amount.
  12. woodsman23

    woodsman23 Minister of Fire

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    Just go over and kick his ass.................
  13. jimbom

    jimbom Combustion Analyzer

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    I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on the internet. Dennis has it correct. Wait for the notice from the court.

    The four corners of a contract:
    An offer,
    An acceptance,
    Legal purpose,
    Consideration(pay or compensation).

    You offered to take down the dead trees. The neighbor accepted your offer. The agreement does not break any laws, therefore it is a legal purpose.

    Now. The consideration. You removed dead and dangerous trees and were paid for your time, materials, and equipment by the use of the wood. The neighbor wants to change the contract after the fact. See constructive estoppel in the construction industry.

    Create a bill for your services to cut and remove the dangerous trees. You are in business, so you know the costs of doing business. Include them all. Include the time spent preparing the bill. Send the neighbor the bill for services by mail and demand payment. If he ever does file, chances are, the judge has paid for a tree removal or knows someone that has paid. It is expensive. The judge may accept your bill and deduct the value of the wood and have the neighbor pay you.

    Sounds like your neighbor is borderline insane. Consider visiting the local police to see if a do not trespass order or other order is warranted. Prepare to defend yourself in any case. The dnt order will not protect you physically, only legally should the unthinkable come to pass.
  14. mainstation

    mainstation Feeling the Heat

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    That made me laugh out loud.
  15. Exmasonite

    Exmasonite Feeling the Heat

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    Any pics of the pile or wood collected?

    I would say that worst case scenario, offer to replace the same amount of wood taken.... but don't offer that up front as it could be seen as an admission of guilt. Just something to hold onto in case the judgment is going against you.

    But the 6 month lag time to complain will be the death of their case.
  16. holland_patrick

    holland_patrick Member

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    Is the wife hot?????
  17. steam man

    steam man Minister of Fire

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    The letter states that i “cut down live trees instead of dead ones.â€

    Just go over and offer to cut down the dead ones to compensate him. LOL
  18. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

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  19. North of 60

    North of 60 Minister of Fire

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    I like your thinking on this one Highbeam. Good angle.
  20. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    Between the kick his ass and the hot wife comments, I think I may have pissed myself. Either that or my coffee is only warm.
  21. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    There is another side to this though. Your neighbor might argue that the wife did not have authority to give away those trees, and the judge might agree with that. She might in fact not be listed on the deed for the property, but even if she is, she might not be automatically able to consent to something like this. Depends on how she seems to the judge.

    One caveat to any contract, no matter how small, is verifying that the person you're dealing with has authority to enter the contract. In other words, just because you go on someone's property, and a person living there says "Sure, cut down that tree," doesn't mean they have the authority to say so. And your doing so might be the same as having gotten no permission at all.

    I can almost guarantee you that the judge is going to ask: Why didn't you ask the husband for permission? A lot will depend on that answer.
  22. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    +1
  23. Thistle

    Thistle Minister of Fire

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    HAHAHA
  24. jimbom

    jimbom Combustion Analyzer

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    Settle out of court and thank your lucky stars we are not your lawyers.
  25. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    Good advice, but still like the kick butt better! lol

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