$1.2 Million Dollar Lesson Resulted In A Man Cutting Down His Neighbor’s Beloved Tree

By: Riley Brown | Last updated: Oct 11, 2023

Michael took a deep breath and sprinted out the doors, his heart thumping so hard he could hear it in his chest. He waved and hollered, desperately seeking their attention.

Michael was under the impression that he had never authorized any of this, and the tree cutter even turned to look at him. He called someone and handed him his phone.

Their Home

Michael and Emma had tied the knot and made their home in the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee. They had recently moved into their new house and wanted to make a few modest adjustments so that it reflected more of their personality.


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There were quite a few residences in the vicinity, and the yards of each of them appeared to be virtually identical. Trees were growing along the boundary of the property. They desired something that would set them apart from their neighbors.


The Trees

They were especially fond of the line of oak trees which ran down a portion of the property. This became one of the most important factors for them to take into account when they were deciding whether or not to buy the home of their dreams.


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However, many mulberry trees obstructed the view of the sun among the oak trees. They decided to shop around the neighborhood for prices to see who might undercut them.

A Preposterous Demand

They were displeased with the said mulberry trees since they were preventing them from receiving any sunlight, but unaware that obtaining quotations and estimates would make the issue even more difficult.


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They were made a generous offer of money but declined it because they were happy only with oak trees in the front yard, which provided them with seclusion from the highway. Michael, at this point, didn’t give much thought to the peculiar request which came from his next-door neighbor.

So Extravagant

Michael and his wife had just moved into the neighborhood when they discovered their neighbor had invested a chunk of their fortune in building a porch for his front yard. A fire pit, string lights, jacuzzi, and pizza oven were all there. However, what he really needed from them was implied by his words.


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Michael would be lying to himself if he said he didn’t feel a twinge of envy. However, the reality was that it had its share of problems and wasn’t perfect.

The Frustration

Normally, Michael’s neighbor would spend the afternoons after work chilling in his jacuzzi, but he had recently discovered an issue that prevented him from doing so. This problem caused him to enjoy his jacuzzi no longer.

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Michael and his wife had such a special fondness in their hearts for oak trees, but their neighbor couldn’t stand the sight of them. Because of the oak trees, his jacuzzi would always be in the shadows, even when the sun was shining.


Asking For Help

Because he owns a tree removal firm, his next-door neighbor thought it would be a good idea to ask him whether he could take down the mulberry trees that were on their land. In addition, he did not go there to only deliver a quotation.

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Michael’s only expectation was that his prices would be lower than those of any other company in the industry. However, he was unaware of his neighbor’s genuine motives for the acquisition of the job.


Total Novice

Michael was away from home when his neighbor told him he would put a quotation in the mail for him to see when he returned. However, it seemed that he was unlikely to do so.

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Michael really had no idea how to prune trees, so he was grateful that his neighbor took the time to do the job for him. Because he knew nothing about any of this, he was thankful for his neighbor’s assistance and kind gesture.


Coming Home

One week later, when they had returned from their trip, he saw a scene that would make his fury flare. In his yard, he began shouting something to a person who was a complete stranger. He had no idea what was happening or why the stranger was there.

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They had just arrived, and he discovered a horrifying situation at home. Because Michael’s wife had to make a hasty return to work, he was the only one who was aware of what had transpired while they were gone.


Horrendous Scenario

Michael was really perplexed about what was going on, considering that he had just returned and heard the noise of machines. He proceeded to the origin of the problem, which was his backyard.

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There, he saw the trucks and diggers working in his yard. He saw that the vehicles had the sign of the business owned by his next-door neighbor. Then he came to an understanding of what was taking place. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that his oaks would be chopped.


The Clock Was Ticking

They were already far into felling the trees at the edge of his garden. They had already successfully cut down a few of the trees Michael and his wife cherished, and they were now planning to tear down all of the oak trees.

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Michael’s heart was pounding as he smashed through the doors and hurried down to them, screaming at them to halt what they were doing. He gesticulated wildly as his speech was obliterated by the clamor caused by the noisy gear.


Immediate Halt

When one of the workers noticed Michael running toward him, he promptly turned off his machine’s engine. As soon as he realized what he had been told, he jumped out of the vehicle and signaled to his team to immediately cease the activities they were doing.

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Michael became enraged and demanded to know who had permitted them before he glanced about at the destruction. He responded by saying that their employer (also his neighbor) had instructed them to cut down these trees.


The Ruins

Michael took a quick look at the destruction, and his chest plummeted, and he felt the urge to weep. The grass in his yard had been trampled, and fallen trees and flower beds littered the area. And in the midst of it all, the bare and lopped-off stumps that had once been his magnificent oak trees.

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Michael found himself becoming enraged. He couldn’t believe that his next-door neighbor would act in such a way! But he was aware that he needed to take action.


Confused And Outraged

Michael was feeling a great deal of confusion and said to the cutter that he had never given his consent for any work to be done in this vicinity. The employee passed the phone to his employer, who also happened to be Michael’s neighbor.

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Before they finally hung up, they had a brief but contentious talk with one another. After the construction workers departed his property, Michael was left with a yard full of debris, including many large trees that had fallen. This was simply the start of everything.


Pondering What To Do Next

Michael agonized about what the next step should be, but he was powerless to change the situation. The trees had been cut down cruelly, leaving behind lifeless stumps. He made many attempts to address his astonishing next-door neighbor, but the man couldn’t be found, and all of his calls were sent to voicemail.

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Then, to make things even more difficult for him, he discovered a message that had been pushed under the front door by their neighbor.


Making Matters Worse

Michael’s anger was instantaneously sparked as he read the message. He posted his question on Reddit in the hopes of receiving feedback from unknown users.

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“When I returned from vacation last week, I came home to two tree stumps, mashed-up grass, and a letter telling me to expect a Venmo payment for $2,000,” Michael indignantly tried to explain in a post on Reddit. His next-door neighbor was under the impression that just tossing cash at the situation would make it disappear.


Completed Devastated

Michael’s wife was distraught to see that her favorite trees had been cut down when she returned home. She also found it annoying that the ancient trees had been cut down, revealing the busy road beyond.

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The following day, they planned on talking to their neighbor about the situation, but they encountered an obstacle. Because of the severe downpour from the previous night, the trees that had been chopped down and placed haphazardly on their property had tumbled onto the main road.


Police On Their Doorstep

They were awakened by a knock on their door coming from the police. They were informed that the trees were their concern, which implied they would be liable for paying the expenditures the city expended in removing these enormous trees.

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They recounted the events, and Michael’s wife, who works as an attorney, calmly and skillfully escape blame and accountability for this because her job allowed her to dodge it. After that, things began to move forward at a much faster pace. 


Tree Maintenance And Liability

For those who aren’t aware, taking responsibility for tree maintenance is actually very important. Although it is a different case with Michael, it is always essential to look out for the trees on your property. 

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If a tree on your property is dead or has large dead limbs, and you are aware of it, you might be liable for any damages it might cause. While Michael’s neighbor’s actions were purely out of selfish reasons, it is still important to be aware of these things.


Prayers Were Answered

Michael’s article on Reddit had already garnered hundreds of comments within just a few short days after it was first published. When he posed his question, many people sympathized with him and were in the same situation as he was. However, one of these users offered him the advice to ask his question in a new thread titled “r/treelaw.” 

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As he proceeded further into that particular subject on Reddit, he found it more difficult to believe what he was reading.


Know Your Tree Laws

As a property owner, knowing the tree laws is very important. You must know of your rights and responsibilities regarding trees, most especially trees that are close to property lines.

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If Michael hadn’t shared his ordeal online, who knows how things could have turned out? He may have been left to deal with all the damages on his own, without any compensation. Luckily for him, he got help before it was too late. 


Arboreal Arbitration

Michael was completely unaware of the existence of attorneys who specialized in what is known as “arboreal arbitration.” According to Barri Bonapart, a tree lawyer in California, “Tree law is anything that you can imagine that might give rise to disputes between people concerning trees.”

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As soon as he posted his message to the separate thread, everyone began informing him that he needed to hire an arborist as soon as possible. Michael discovered that despite his neighbor’s arrogant behavior, he did have some control over the situation.


Tree Laws And Its Quirks

Some people find aspects of tree laws strange. On Quora, many people have raised issues relating to its laws. 

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For instance, one person argued that they find it quite surprising that the responsibility of maintaining the parts of a tree that extends over the property line into another person’s yard is with the said neighbor and not the tree owner. This means that the neighbor can cut or trim those parts of the tree but mustn’t cause irreparable harm to the tree. 


The Arborist

Several weeks passed, and throughout that time, after a great deal of talk – as well as steadily increasing levels of annoyance over the elimination of their visually pleasant trees, Michael finally came up with a resolution.

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After much thought, they determined that the best way to persuade their next-door neighbor to confess his wrongdoing and pay restitution would be to engage an arborist. Commonly referred to as “tree doctors,” they could determine the value of the trees that had been destroyed as a result of the neighbor’s actions.


Reddit Followers Chime In

Redditors participating in the discussion thread for the subreddit “r/treelaw” awaited an announcement from Michael with eager anticipation.

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One person wrote: “I assure you, we are all anxiously awaiting how many zeroes are in the estimate that the arborist gives you, so you must promise frequent update posts.” “Who doesn’t appreciate a good piece of justice, especially when it’s well-deserved?” another drooled. When he did, though, everyone completely went insane.


Highly Appraised

The couple was stunned when they learned how much their trees were worth. They were highly valued because the oak trees were very uncommon and had taken hundreds of years to mature.

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They retained the services of a legal representative and briefed him on all they had learned from the arborist and the unpaid bill that had been left by the city council for the road cleanup. After that, he advised them how much they could sue his neighbor’s firm.


Get Out Of Town

The neighbor who made the error is now being sued for $1.2 million to cover the costs of the harm he caused. This includes paying for his legal bills, the cost of cleaning up the road he damaged, and the market worth of the ancient trees he felled.

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Due to bankruptcy, the neighbor’s company closed its doors. He gave up the home he had owned for some time and uprooted himself, heading elsewhere. Michael and his wife were not required to pay anything!


Expert Consultation Is Key

If you are currently in a similar situation or if it ever occurs, this incident with Michael highlights why it is essential always to proceed cautiously and seek advice from the right authorities. 

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Because of ignorance, Michael’s neighbor has lost a whole lot, all of which could have been prevented if he had gone about it the right way. Unfortunately for him, he messed around and found out what happens when you take matters into your own hands. 


Sweet, Sweet Victory

Michael updated his Reddit followers in his case, “It’s going to take a long time apparently (several months, possibly all the way until September since the process didn’t start until just this week due to the Holidays), but I will have all 12 trees back on my property at no cost to me!”

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He proceeded, “I want to thank everyone for all their advice, it was a huge help!” Adding, “I didn’t know you all were so into trees, but I’m glad you are!”


Trees, Consequences, And The Costs

Considering a similar event, things could have been much worse for Michael’s neighbor. Back in 2011, a New Jersey man Jay Patel of Mahwah, made a drastic decision to cut down around 221 trees on his neighbor’s property because he wanted an unobstructed view of the mountain from his home. In the end, the trees he cut down were estimated at $1 million. 

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Additionally, he faced other charges like 2nd-degree theft and criminal mischief, leaving him to face a possibility of 10 years in jail.