Rhapis Law Suit - What's the Damage???

Discussion in 'PALM TREES - WHERE TROPICAL STARTS' started by Dypsisdean, Dec 30, 2009.

  1. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

    Big Island of Hawaii - Kona
    I recently recieved this inquiry. Does anyone want to chime in???

    "Two weeks ago my privacy wall consisting of over 100 mature rhapis palms was maliciously cut down by the neighboring landlord and his grandson. In addition 15 mature coffee trees and over 200 lobster claw heliconia were cut down. The area is about 350 square feet of damage. My question is what the cost of replacing 100 13foot rhapis palms would cost. I am taking this person to court and am trying to get a few reputable estimates of what it would cost to replace what was destroyed."
  2. MattyB

    MattyB Moderator

    Spring Valley, CA
    This person should go to a nursery and get a written quote. Not likely a nursery has (100) 13 footers in stock but they can get a unit cost for legal purposes.
  3. Phil Stager

    Phil Stager Esteemed Member

    Sunny St. Pete, FL
    1. Take photos and more photos and still more photos. Then lots of video.
    2. Did you file a police report?
    3. I hope you have a good survey that shows the plants were on your property.
    4. Here in FL, many of us use Betrock's Plant Finder for cost or price estimates. Get written quotes from local nurseries. If locals do not have them, then what's the cost of shipping them in from wherever? Don't forget the removal costs of the damaged plants and the installation cost of the replacement plants.

    I base most of this on a complaint I had against FL Power for the damage they caused while 'trimming' bamboo under power lines. FL Power has an easement for the power lines on one side of my yard. One day while I was not home, they came in and whacked all the bamboo down to ground level - both within and then outside the easement. I was pissed!
    First lotsa photos. Then a phone complaint. Then a written complaint with detailed costs for the bamboo they destroyed including the salvadge value of mature culms, replacement costs, anything legit I could think of, and the cheap 12v lighting fixture also destroyed. Copies to the newspaper and TV station help lines, etc. I was all set for small claims court. I rejected the intial offer of $12 for the light fixture. Then a day later they offered to settle for $700 (which was close enough to my estimate damages of $750).
    I have no idea what the limits are for small claims court in your area. That's one venue. If your estimated damages are near or over that, then see the nastiest, vilest, most vicious lawyer you can find to make life a living hell for the SOB who whacked your plants. I do not like lawyers, but if I have to use one, I want the best one I can afford.

    FWIW, my Feb 155, 2006 copy of Betrocks shows Rhapis excelsa: 25 gal, 8-10'PH for $350 at the high end. 7 gal, 4'PH for $50. Readily available here in FL.

    Go get' em. Raise hell and take no prisoners.
  4. bepah

    bepah Active Member

    Brentwood CA 9b

    I am not familiar with HI real estate law. However, in CA, thewre may be a lot more than meets the eye here.
    1) Does the person who contacted you own the property? If so, he can go forward, if not he can only complain to his landlord.
    2) On who's property did the 'privacy' wall exist. If the plants cut down were on the the 'offender's' property, he has no basis for complaint in CA, again, I do not know the rulle in HI.
    3) If the plants cut down were encroaching on the property of the 'offender', in CA he has the right to clear them with the following limitations: a) no damaging of the plants in the sense of disfigurement or death b) no digging on the neighboring property.
    4) This one has been fought in CA (and lost) by the 'offender'; if the plants block the view and that is the basis of the cut down, you cannot cut. In HI , views, such as ocean views, are much more important than in CA.

    The person who talked to you did not mention if his neighbor talked to him prior to the damage being done. In this state we have a standing rule that if the neighbors had talked first, it would have a bearing on the decision. The person who cuts encroaching plants down has a much stronger case if he tried to cut a deal with the person who is complaining.

    As to the assessment of the damage, we have a small claims cour limit of $7,500, I think. If you were to give him an amount higher than that, you may become a witness in a trial......based on what damage you have stated, you could end up as a defendant in a counter suit.....

    This whole thing looks ugly to me.
  5. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

    Big Island of Hawaii - Kona
    I notified the party that sent that to me (who I previously did not know), and informed him he may wish to monitor this thread and register if he wanted to respond. I assumed he was in Hawaii, due to a few clues, and asked him where. I have yet to hear back.

    We'll see.
  6. Dave from So-Cal

    Dave from So-Cal Well-Known Member

    Dean and all:

    Where the property is is of critical importance, as Bepah pointed out.

    And, there are LOTS of details to be ironed out.

    Also, if you can prove malice, you can get punitive damages, which can up the ante considerably.

    I'm curious to know more.

  7. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

    Big Island of Hawaii - Kona

    It was in Hawaii, I am pretty sure. But this fellow has kinda disappeared. His loss, I would imagine. I'll try contacting him via email again.

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