Plaintiff files claims against neighbors regarding tree maintenance. Defense wins costs. Alameda County.


Neighbor next to an HOA community says his property was damaged by trees.

The Case

  • Case Name: Parks v. Pettigrew, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Alameda County Superior Court, Case No. RG16824876
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, August 15, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, July 25, 2016
  • Type of Case: Declaratory Relief, Nuisance, Private
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Richard Seabolt
  • Plaintiffs:
    John D. Parks
  • Defendants:
    Stuart Pettigrew
    Gael Janofsky
    Farooq Kahn
    Dominique Lambert-Blum
    Carlon Tanner
    Temescal Lofts Homeowners' Association
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defendants awarded $20,045.80 in costs.
  • Award as to each Defendant:


  • Jury Deliberation Time: 12 hours
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff's motion for new trial denied. Plaintiff's motion for JNOV denied. Defendants' motion to be deemed the prevailing party and award of costs granted.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Office of Cynthia A. Browning by Cynthia Browning, Oakland.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Bledsoe, Diestel, Treppa & Crane LLP by James M. Treppa and Holly A. Graves, San Francisco.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Alexandra Clarfield, Ph.D., psychology.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Joseph McNeil, Arborist and tree care

    Phillip Dregger, roofing.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Ray Moritz, Arborist and tree care

    David Tognela, construction.

    Steve Cadet, roofing.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff alleged causes of action for trespass and nuisance against defendants stemming from trees on defendants’ property. The dispute began in 2009 and continued until 2016, when this lawsuit was filed.

    The trees in dispute were initially tipuana tipu trees, which were tall and overhung plaintiff’s property and were removed entirely in or around November 2018. Plaintiff complained the tipu trees dropped leaves and debris on his property, including roof. He alleged the debris/leaves on the roof caused damage and water intrusion by clogging the drainage spots and allowing water pooling. Defense experts inspected the property and opined the roof was poorly installed, maintained, and repaired and the deferred maintenance was the cause of any roof drainage issues and water intrusion. A photo was shown with water pooling on the roof in 2020, two years after the tipu trees were removed. Then the dispute turned to water gum trees which are shorter trees along the fence line and were removed entirely in March 2022. Plaintiff complained the water gum trees dropped debris over the fence line onto his grounds.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendants’ trees dropped leaves and debris onto his real and personal property, depriving him of the use and enjoyment of the same. That tree debris caused leaks in his roof and damage inside his home and damage to his driveway, requiring repair to the interior and exterior of the home. Plaintiff further alleged emotional damages and punitive damages as a result of defendants’ conduct and failure to maintain the trees.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendants denied liability for plaintiff’s alleged damages, asserting they properly maintained the trees under expert guidance, attempted to address plaintiff’s complaints, and asserted plaintiff’s deferred maintenance to his home caused the damage, if any, to his real property.

    Ultimately, defendants removed all “offending” trees from their property prior to trial.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $20,000 in January 2020 and later one for $102,000.

Additional Notes

Plaintiff sought a verdict of $1,250,000.

The jury returned a verdict finding (1) Defendants trespassed on plaintiff’s property, but holding (2) defendants did not create a nuisance on Plaintiff’s property so as to interfere with his use and enjoyment of the same and (3) awarded plaintiff $2,656 in damages.

Plaintiff’s motion for new trial and motion for JNOV were denied. Defendants’ motion to be deemed prevailing party per CCP 998 and award of costs, totaling $20,045.80 was granted.

Per plaintiff's counsel:

Plaintiff, an African American man, purchased his home in Emeryville in 1983. Defendants own the property adjacent, which was constructed in 1995, subject to a conditional use permit. The conditional use permit restricted what could be planted in the common area. In violation of that conditional use permit, defendants maintained large invasive trees that damaged plaintiff’s one-story home that has a flat roof. Plaintiff tried for years to get defendants, who are all Caucasian, to cut the trees back from his property. At the time the litigation ensued, the trees stood 60 feet tall. Prior to filing suit, plaintiff made several demands on defendants, both before and after retaining counsel, asking that they keep their trees maintained to their property line. Defendants ignored this demand and the litigation ensued.

The jury composition was 7 Caucasian, 4 Asian and one woman who is mixed race.