15 July 2020

Municipal Authority is liable to pay compensation for injury cause due to fall of road-side tree

By a catena of decisions, the law is well settled that if there is a tree standing on the defendant's land which is dried or dead and for that reason may fall and the defect is one which is either known or should have been known to the defendant, then the defendant is liable for any injury caused by the fall of the tree (see Brown Vs. Harrison (1947) 63 Law Times Reports 484; Quinn Vs. Scott (1965) 1 W.L.R. 1004, Mackie Vs. Dumbartonshire County Council, (1927) W.N. 247. 

Municipal Authority is liable to pay compensation for injury cause due to fall of road-side tree
The duty of the owner/occupier of the premises by the side of the road whereon persons lawfully pass by, extends to guarding against what may happen just by the side of the premises on account of anything dangerous on the premises. The premises must be maintained in a safe state of repair. The owner/occupier cannot escape the liability for injury caused by any dangerous thing existing on the premises by pleading that he had employed a competent person to keep the premises in safe repairs. In Municipal Corporation of Delhi Vs. Subhagwanti and Ors. AIR 1966 SC 1750 a clock tower which was 80 years old collapsed in Chandni Chowk Delhi causing the death of a number of persons. Their Lordships held that the owner could not be permitted to take a defence that he neither knew nor ought to have known the danger. "The owner is legally responsible irrespective of whether the damage is caused by a patent or a latent defect," - said their Lordships. In our opinion the same principle is applicable to the owner of a tree standing by the side of a road. If the tree is dangerous in the sense that on account of any disease or being dead the tree or its branch is likely to fall and thereby injure any passer-by then such tree or branch must be removed so as to avert the danger to life. It is pertinent to note that it is not the defence of the Municipal Corporation that vis major or an act of God such as storm, tempest, lightning or extraordinary heavy rain had occurred causing the fall of the branch of the tree and hence the Corporation was not liable.

In our opinion the High Court was right in holding the Municipal Corporation negligent in performing its duty under the common law and therefore liable in damages to the plaintiffs for the injury caused to the deceased by fall of the branch of the tree and the consequences flowing therefrom.

Supreme Court of India

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi
Smt. Sushila Devi

(1999)4 SCC 317

{This landmark judgment is fallowed by Bombay High Court in Smt. Seema Wd/O. Ganesh Uikey Vs. State Of Maharashtra, 2005(4) All MR 919}

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