D'Andrea v. Guglietta

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Citation504 A.2d 1196,208 N.J.Super. 31
PartiesHenry D'ANDREA and Angela D'Andrea, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. John GUGLIETTA and Patricia Guglietta, Defendants-Respondents.
Decision Date31 January 1986

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208 N.J.Super. 31
504 A.2d 1196
Henry D'ANDREA and Angela D'Andrea, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
John GUGLIETTA and Patricia Guglietta, Defendants-Respondents.
Superior Court of New Jersey,
Appellate Division.
Submitted Dec. 16, 1985.
Decided Jan. 31, 1986.

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Cynthia S. Jenkins, Cinnaminson, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Craig S. Larsen, Berlin, for defendants-respondents.

Before Judges FURMAN, COHEN and ASHBEY.

The opinion of the court was delivered by

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Liability for tree root damage to a neighbor's property is at issue on this appeal. The trial court awarded $2,960 to defendants on their counterclaim for damages and for abatement of a nuisance: tree roots [504 A.2d 1197] which had spread onto their property from a maple tree growing on plaintiffs' property, cracking their waylite block boundary fence. Plaintiffs had planted the maple tree about three and a half feet from the common boundary 14 years before, three years before the construction of defendants' boundary fence.

The focus of the brief non-jury trial was on plaintiffs' action for abatement of defendants' boundary fence as a nuisance and for consequential damages for diminishment of their own property's value. The trial court dismissed plaintiffs' action because their only proof was that the boundary fence was unsightly and aesthetically displeasing to them, insufficient as a matter of law to support a finding of a nuisance, Cahill v. Heckel, 87 N.J. Super. 201, 204, 208 A.2d 651 (Ch.Div.1965). No issue challenging dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint is raised before us. Plaintiffs' sole issue on appeal is that no liability should lie on the counterclaim against them for unforeseen damage to their neighbors' wall arising out of root growth from a previously planted tree.

Only two witnesses testified at trial: Henry D'Andrea, one of the two plaintiffs, and Patricia Guglietta, one of the two defendants. D'Andrea's testimony was directed solely to his claim, not to the counterclaim. According to Guglietta's testimony, the maple tree was planted around 1970 "about the same time" that she and her husband installed a chain link boundary fence; the Gugliettas removed the chain link fence around 1973 and replaced it with their waylite block fence; the maple tree's roots were not "established anywhere near that wall" when the Gugliettas dug down to put in foundation footings for their masonry wall; approximately eleven years later when they noticed the crack in the wall, they dug down and discovered

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"gigantic" roots from the nearby maple tree up to 30 feet in length "coming through the wall." A masonry contractor's estimate of $2,960 for repair of the wall, to which Guglietta testified, was unchallenged at trial and is unchallenged before us as to reasonableness.

Plaintiffs neither pleaded nor offered proof of any defense, e.g., that defendants could have avoided the injury to their masonry wall by self-help in 1973 or thereafter, that is, by digging down, severing and removing the maple tree roots on their side of the common boundary. The judgment for defendants on their counterclaim awarded damages but no specific relief. Under common law principles, defendants were entitled to cut off invading tree roots by exercising self-help, 2 Thompson, Real Property (5 ed. 1980), § 336 at 155; Michalson v. Nutting, 275 Mass. 232, 175 N.E. 490 (1931); Colombe v. City of Niagara Falls, 162 Misc. 594, 295 N.Y.S. 84 (Sup.Ct.1937).

The trial court relied upon two New Jersey cases, Ackerman v. Ellis, 81 N.J.L. 1, 79 A. 883 (Sup.Ct.1911) and Wegener v. Sugarman, 104 N.J.L. 26, 138 A. 699 (Sup.Ct.1927), which deal with liability arising from and...

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4 cases
  • Iny v. Collom, 2005-952 N C.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Term
    • August 15, 2006
    ...encroachments from roots or branches, but their holdings do not fall within any of these four approaches (see e.g. D'Andrea v Guglietta, 208 NJ Super 31, 504 A2d 1196 [1986]; Jones v Wagner, 425 Pa Super 102, 624 A2d 166 [1993], lv denied 536 Pa 626, 637 A2d 286 [1993]). 3. The state courts......
  • Burke v. Briggs
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • March 1, 1990
    ...principles of tort liability and arguing that summary judgment was therefore inappropriate. Relying on D'Andrea v. Guglietta, 208 N.J.Super. 31, 504 A.2d 1196 (App.Div.1986), the trial judge reasoned that the fallen tree constituted a "nuisance" because defendant had failed to use his prope......
  • Black v. Borough of Atlantic Highlands
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • April 6, 1993
    ...See, State, Department of Environmental Protection v. Ventron Corp., 94 N.J. 473, 490, 468 A.2d 150 (1983); D'Andrea v. Guglietta, 208 N.J.Super. 31, 34, 504 A.2d 1196 (App.Div.1986). To ordinary landowners unprotected by statutory immunities, liability in tort to adjoining property owners ......
  • Deberjeois v. Schneider
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • April 19, 1991
    ...predecessor in title may have planted the tree in question. (citations omitted). And lastly, in the case of D'Andrea v. Guglietta, 208 N.J.Super. 31, 504 A.2d 1196 (App.Div.1986), a case with facts similar to those of this case, the court held that an adjoining property owner could be found......

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