PTCA Field Day a Great Success

Wow, just when I thought the PTCA (Professional Tree Care Association) annual seminar was the bomb, the following field day was just as great. While the seminar was an indoor event focusing on a variety of topics presented by outstanding industry professionals and educators, the field day was spent outdoor at beautiful Balboa park in San Diego.

The day consisted of a number of workshops organized into several different tracks that allowed participants to choose from a palette of presentations that provided something for everybody. Tree climbers and field workers loved the tree climbing workshop and training by Mr. Martin Morales. His workshop included climbing and positioning for safe work in trees, also taught about knots, ropes and equipment inspection, while providing new tips and tricks. I am way to old for climbing, but enjoyed watching guys in the trees, had an opportunity to meet Martin during an incredible lunch (carne asada). We were looking at a rigging holding a tree logIMG_0042, he immediately pointed out flaws and worn equipment, I would never have noticed. Fortunately we have educated tree climbers who understand the importance of proper equipment, training and safety.  Another track included Tree Risk Assessment best management practices (BMP’s) workshop taught by Mr. Ron Matranga and Dr. R. Bruce Allison. Since I consult and provide tree risk assessment as part of my practice, it was a great opportunity to learn about  best management practices involved with the new TRAQ (tree risk assessment qualified) versus the previous TRACE (tree risk assessment certification exam) methodology. Dr. Allison demonstrated new sonic tomography techniques for non-destructive testing of the interior of tree trunks, new cutting edge technology that is already an advancement from just two years ago. Using probes and determining the time for sound waves to travel through tree trunks and how the sound wave moves at different velocities around interior trunk decay will assist arborists to use in advanced tree risk assessment. As Dr. Allison noted, hopefully in the next few years, the cost will come down and we will have a pocket sized device and an app to use to help us understand what is happening with interior tree decay.

Sound wave technology, the next big thing?

Sound wave technology, the next big thing?

How serious is the problem

How serious is the problem

We all know about new invasive insects and diseases affecting our trees, new invasive species are being detected at a rate on one every 60 days, Dr. John Kabashiima provided the sobering statistic it is now one every 45 days! The gold spotted oak borer has decimated tens of thousands of Coast Live Oak and Black Oaks throughout California.

Six orange color dots help identify this pest, although the adult is rarely seen

Six orange color dots help identify this pest, although the adult is rarely seen

This pest has been spread throughout the state, particularly San Diego county by people using the dead wood for fire wood, transporting it in their vehicles where they unwitting spread the insect throughout the county. Don’t move infected wood!

Stop using infected wood for fire wood and don't transport the wood, you are spreading the disease

Stop using infected wood for fire wood and don’t transport the wood, you are spreading the disease

Take a look at some of these nasty borers and other insects, yikes!Nasty Borers

For pest control advisors and applicators, there was a pesticide application for trees demonstration and a safety workshop and tree identification workshop and quiz available to test your knowledge. Field guys loved the chainsaw sharpening and troubleshooting workshop presented by Mr. Paul Lasiter and Mr. Joe Garcia. Another great aspect for everyone was presentation of many workshops in Spanish and English, a very inclusive aspect that helped all of us enjoy the day.

I learned a great deal of new information I never would have even considered without this great field day presentation. Have you ever considered how heavy a downed tree trunk is?  Well, there was a workshop on how to calculate the wood weight of felled trees, presented by Mr. Harvey Pedersen. Crane operators have to have a reasonable idea of how much a log or portion of a tree trunk weighs in order to safely lift it. Mr. Pederson presented wood weight calculations of various types of trees and an amazingly accurate method for estimating the weight of a log, which was then lifted by the crane which provided the true weight to compare against our estimated weights. How cool is that!

How much do those logs weight?

How much do those logs weight?

Just want to thank all of those involved in the PTCA Seminar and Field Day for a truly memorable event, a special thanks to our friend Dave Shaw

Dave kept us all entertained, what a great guy!

Dave kept us all entertained, what a great guy!

 

who once again served as the master of ceremony and kept us all entertained. Keep up the great work, looking forward to next years seminar and field day.

Learn more about the PTCA at http://www.ptcasandiego.org

Oak Tree Failure Kills Counselor at Camp Tawonga

Camp Tawonga Tree Failure

My son Jake called yesterday very upset, telling me about an oak tree falling and killing a counselor at Camp Tawonga near Yosemite, CA.  My son graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies and Economics from UC Santa Cruz last June and worked the summer at Camp Tawonga.  He loved working there and returned for some part time work last fall.

What was chilling was his description of the exact location where the tree fell, he said he often sat nearby the spot and even sat under the tree!  He knew the counselor, Annais Rittenberg from UC Santa Cruz, where he also took the environmental field course his senior year.  Needless to say, he is shocked by what happened.

As a certified arborist, I provide tree risk assessments, a process of tree investigation and analysis that rates a tree defects and determines the hazard potential of a tree part or whole tree failure.  I have worked with plaintiff and defendant attorneys concerning tree failures and accidents, yet this accident struck very close to home.  I keep thinking about how that easily could have been my son under that oak tree when it failed.

Who knows if this failure could have been predicted?  My son mentioned how the area where the tree was located was irrigated daily throughout the summer, he said the tree trunk split and fell.  Was there root rot, cavities, or decay in the trunk?  Was the crown showing signs of stress?  Would a risk assessment have determined the tree was structurally unstable?  Maybe yes or no, I certainly don’t want to speculate, as I do not know the facts.

Tree failures resulting in human fatalities are very low, yet it only takes one failure to change lives forever.  My heart and sympathies to the family for the terrible loss.

This should serve as a reminder to camps, recreational facilities, golf courses, R.V. parks and manufactured housing communities to inventory and inspect your tree assets on your property, common spaces and even notify homeowners of endangered trees on their private lots or property.  Facility owners who take proactive measures to inspect, inventory, assess and maintain their tree assets increase the chance of detecting and minimizing tree related accidents before they happen.

 

An Expert for Which, Defendant or Plaintiff Cases? Impartiality Is the Key

When I first decided to become a landscape, horticulture, arboriculture, site construction and development forensic expert witness, a business associate asked me which side I worked for, the defendant or plaintiff. Since I was new to the industry, I was somewhat taken aback at his remark. In my mind, I did not have a pre-determined preference on representing one side or the other.

With some time and experience under my belt, including working for both defendant and plaintiff cases, my conclusion is still the same, I do not have a preference because I use impartiality and standard of care to determine which client to represent. Yes, defendant cases typically are backed by insurance companies paying the bill, so from that perspective, the defendant side has deeper pockets, but that does not influence my decision to represent a defendant or plaintiff. While a plaintiff might be financially constricted, I have had no problems with getting paid for professional expert witness services.

I offer forensic expert witness consulting services for defendant or plaintiff clients and screen potential clients for satisfaction or failure to provide the proper standard of care. Here is the full article:

Defendant or Plaintiff Expert?

When I began offering landscape, horticulture, arboriculture and site development forensic expert witness consulting services throughout California, a business associate asked which “side” I worked for, the defendant or plaintiff. He did not want to refer the incorrect potential client to me. My answer to him then remains the same now, it does not matter whether a defendant or plaintiff client, I provide impartial expert opinions based on discovery, due diligence and the technical knowledge and experience I bring to the case.

Of course, impartial cuts both ways, and if discovery information leads me to an impartial opinion not in the best interest of my client, my professional integrity requires I inform the client why my opinion does NOT support their position. Fortunately, that difficult situation has not occurred; one of the reasons is careful screening of incoming requests by attorneys and paralegals.

It is challenging to maintain a neutral position during a telephone discussion with a potential client. Naturally, we all want to build our practice, so when a potential business contact occurs over the phone, careful listening, screening and asking pertinent questions is extremely important to ascertain whether the information provided by this potential client is a position I will arrive at independently on an impartial basis. Regardless of the information and position propounded by the attorney, maintaining my neutrality during a telephone conversation is essential to protect my integrity as an impartial expert who arrives at his opinion based on fact and discovery, not being bought or convinced by a client’s position.

Whether a defendant or plaintiff contact, the common thread is determination of satisfaction or failure to meet industry or professional standard of care. Ascertaining this information during initial discussions is an essential tool I use in screening potential clients. If a defendant call, the information provided during questioning should establish a reasonable degree of certainty the client satisfied the professional or industry standard of care, conversely a plaintiff contact will hopefully provide information detailing why the defendant failed to satisfy the standard of care and should be found negligent.

For this reason, I provide expert witness services for both defendant and plaintiff cases because determination of standard of care from a technical perspective must be an objective, impartial process. Perhaps I’m fortunate; the attorney’s I have worked with had a thorough, detailed understanding of their client’s position that simplified the screening process. They provided sufficient information and facts that instilled confidence I would be able to render an impartial expert opinion in their favor if discovery supported their information, which has consistently turned out to be case.

In addition to being retained as an expert for both plaintiff and defendant landscape construction defect cases, the same is true for horticulture and arboriculture cases involving plant and tree maintenance issues. Cases include plaintiff claims of incorrect plant selection, deficient landscape design, improper maintenance practices, tree risk and failure, any number of horticulture and arboriculture issues that have caused property damage, personal injury and even vehicular fatalities. The common thread in plant related cases is determination of standard of care which may include several parties such as the landscape architect and design, standard of care on the part of the construction and maintenance contractors, sometimes public agency interaction and their professional standard of care is examined, and often times all of the above are included as part of the expert opinion.

Due to the technical nature of the job, a landscape expert must be extremely adept in the many facets of construction, arboriculture, horticulture and other related fields. The expert must have the necessary skills and experience to efficiently distill all kinds of construction information to make an impartial standard of care determination. Of equal importance to data gathering, the expert must be able to communicate technical expertise in the simplest manner possible, while still producing convincing results.

As a landscape, horticulture, arboriculture, site development and construction expert, I occupy a relatively small but very important niche in the legal industry. Landscape, horticulture, arboriculture and site construction projects exist all around us, whether at a residential, commercial, industrial, recreational, private or public setting, accidents occur daily. Latent construction defects go undetected for years before manifesting into a serious situation. Trees drop limbs and fall over, damaging property and causing serious injury. Unlicensed or unknowledgeable contractors abound, many using illegal, outdated contracts, or worse, no written contract, both inexperienced or overly aggressive general contractors and subcontractors create project conflicts and many poorly informed property owners and managers suffer the consequences.

So much of my consulting work involves forensic determination of the cause of an accident or failure. In landscape construction, forensic analysis is extremely challenging due to the living and changing nature of the plant material, soils, segregating and determining design flaws versus construction contracting issues versus maintenance contracting practices, all are intertwined into a potentially difficult knot to unravel. Adding to the complexity of certain cases is the situation involving general and sub-contractor conflicts and determination of who did or did not satisfy standard of care. I discuss this situation in a previous article calledStandard of Care in the Landscape Industry

Therefore, using a technically experienced and professionally educated consultant with a thorough background in all landscape, horticulture and arboriculture disciplines can make all the difference, regardless if a defendant or plaintiff case.

Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC is a full-service landscape, horticulture, arboriculture, and land development consulting firm, offering landscape expert witness services for attorneys and insurers. Jeremy Rappoport is a professional horticulturist, ISA certified arborist and tree risk assessor and a C-27 landscape contractor.