On October 23, Judge Raul Sahagun approved a $28 million settlement to 19 family members of a grandmother who died when a tree fell while they were taking wedding photos at a city park in Whittier, a city in Los Angeles County, California.
The mother of the bride died at a hospital and a 3-year-old niece of the bride was hospitalized in critical condition with a traumatic brain injury. Six other family members were treated at a hospital for injuries.
The settlement will be paid to 19 family members, which includes $3.3 million to the bride and $2.9 to her father and three siblings. Both were injured by the tree and suffered PTSD-like symptoms, lawyers said.
The tree was a Blue Gum eucalyptus, which are nicknamed “Widow Makers” because of the tendency for healthy-looking trees to drop massive branches in the summertime, or completely uproot and fall over without warning.
The family hired a forestry expert to examine the tree’s remains. He testified that it was over-watered and allowed to grow on an unsafe 20º grade. He also found a decaying branch stub and root damage.
In the city’s defense, lawyers said arborists had given the tree a routine visual inspection just hours before it fell on the wedding party and found “no apparent issues.”
In addition, Whittier’s park manager had inspected the tree 2 months before the accident “and saw no indications of disease, decay or any other reason for concern,” according to court papers.