The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Love v. Klosky on Thursday, September 8, 2016.
Tree Straddling Property Line.
Plaintiffs and defendants are adjoining landowners whose common boundary is straddled by a 70-year-old tree. Plaintiffs claimed the tree was a nuisance and wanted to cut it down. Defendants wanted the tree to remain. The tree trunk has been on or over the property line for at least 40 years, and the trunk straddled the property line when both plaintiffs and defendants purchased their properties. The trial court, bound by the one Colorado Supreme Court case on point, Rhodig v. Keck, concluded that the tree was not jointly planted, jointly cared for, or treated as a partition, and entered judgment for plaintiffs. The trial court stayed the effect of its decision pending all appeals.
On appeal, defendants contended that the trial court erred in concluding that they did not jointly care for the tree as required by Rhodig. Because defendants did not provide a complete record on appeal on this issue, the Court of Appeals presumed that the trial court’s findings and conclusions were supported by the evidence.
Defendants also contended that the Colorado Supreme Court should reconsider Rhodig because it is the minority rule and it was based on a misreading of a Nebraska case on which it relied. Under the majority rule, a tree on a boundary line belongs to both owners as tenants in common and neither property owner can remove such a tree without the consent of the other. Under the minority rule enunciated in Rhodig, the landowner of the property where the tree was first planted can cut the tree down over the other landowner’s objections unless the other landowner can prove the tree was jointly planted, jointly cared for, or treated as a partition between the properties. The Court concluded that the Supreme Court might wish to reconsider Rhodig based on the many jurisdictions adopting the majority rule and two decisions in other jurisdictions criticizing Rhodig. If the Supreme Court reconsiders Rhodig and adopts the majority rule, it could remand this case to the trial court to issue an injunction to prevent the Kloskys from cutting down the tree. At oral argument, defendants agreed that the trial court’s stay should remain in effect pending any decision by the Supreme Court or the Loves’ failure to timely petition for certiorari. Accordingly, the trial court’s stay was continued.
The judgment was affirmed.
Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.