Who is Better Qualified to Opine on Root Damage, Civil Engineer or Certified Arborist?

I was retained by a defendant attorney to determine whether her client’s tree was responsible for lifting the adjacent civil sidewalk that resulted in a plaintiff trip and fall lawsuit.  Based on the photographs and tree species, White mulberry (Morus alba), I was fairly certain her client’s tree was responsible for the sidewalk damage.

The attorney retained me and requested a site inspection and tree root assessment.  I trenched adjacent to the sidewalk and within a short time, encountered a three-inch diameter root growing under the sidewalk.  Further excavation revealed a network of two to four-inch diameter roots that had grown under the sidewalk, lifting a sidewalk panel, creating a hazardous condition resulting in a trip and fall accident.

I informed the attorney that root encroachment from her client’s tree resulted in the sidewalk damage, she said her civil engineer expert claimed it impossible for a tree root to lift a concrete sidewalk.  I questioned the engineers knowledge and experience with trees, was the civil engineer a certified arborist or horticulturist?

Although the answer was no, she felt his qualification as a civil engineer was superior to my qualifications as a certified arborist, tree risk assessor qualified, registered consulting arborist and a college educated horticulturist.  Her dilemma was having two experts who disagreed and she requested I alter my opinion.

I told the attorney altering my opinion to suit her needs was unethical, and I removed myself from the case.

The common myth is trees have tap roots that grow straight down into the soil.  While this may occur in very deep, loam soils, the reality is most containerized nursery grown trees lose their tap root in the container.  Once planted in our poor Southern California soils, when the tap root encounters physical soil obstructions, such as rock, clay or hardpan, the tap root divides and grows multiple roots around the obstacle, forming a fibrous root system.  Tap root grows into fibrous root system.

Trees require a spreading root system to maintain structural stability.  Trees dissipate energy generated during a storm or wind event by transmitting leaf, limb and trunk movement down to the roots.  A spreading root system anchors the tree movement and dissipates the energy far more effectively than a single tap root system.

Most tree roots grow within the top 24-inches of the soil horizon. Roots in top 24″ of soil.  Over time, structural tree roots (2-inch diameter and greater) growing within a shallow soil adjacent to sidewalks, footings, foundations, walls or othersub-surface infrastructure may cause damage.

Just as a twig grows into a branch, and then a limb, roots increase in length and circumference.  Irrigation water, sewer or water service leaks increase subsoil moisture beneath sidewalks or garage slabs, creating a perfect environment for root growth.

Cracked garage slab

As the root circumference increased, it exerts pressure on the concrete slab or footing above the root.  Depending on the species, root diameter might increase 1/8-1/4” annually.

Within five to eight years, a small feeder root may grow to one-inch in diameter or greater.

 

Ficus root cracked the garage slab

The root growth may be compared to the action of a hydraulic jack, as the circumference increases, the upward pressure on the sidewalk or slab may crack and or eventually lift.  Concrete lifting may often occur at an expansion joint between concrete panels

Sidewalk lifted at expansion joint

 

 

 

 

Root network beneath sidewalk.

Roots seek out soil moisture, they can and will grow under walls, footings and garage slabs.  Roots are opportunistic, leaky plumbing, old cast iron sewer lateral or water services contribute to the soil moisture needed for roots to flourish. 

 

 

 

Sewer lateral root damage

Roots may infiltrate pvc, abs and cast-iron pipe through even the smallest of cracks or holes. 

Once inside, the roots expand in size and quantity, eventually completely clogging the utility.

If the tree crown has grown over a sidewalk or adjacent structure, it is a reasonable assumption structural roots (two-inch diameter and greater) have grown under the sidewalk, slab or footing.

Root growing under house footing

Planter areas confined by concrete pose one of the greatest risks for root damage.  City sidewalks often incorporate small, square planters within the sidewalk easement.

Roots lifting water meter and sidewalks

 

Confined planters quickly fill with structural roots, as well as damaging girdling root.  As the tree crown grows, so to do water absorbing feeder roots.  Over time, root mass and size increases, structural roots may begin to grow beneath concrete improvement while seeking out moisture.

Leaking water meter, high soil moisture, confined growing space.

The tree pictured above and to the right had a leaky water meter adjacent to the small sidewalk planter.  The leaky service provided idea soil moisture conditions for the roots to lift the water meter box, adjacent sidewalks and crack the curb and gutter.

Preventative measures to minimize root encroachment include a variety of root barrier methods.  All root barrier systems work best when the tree is installed.  Once roots have enlarged and matured, barrier mitigation is not successful.

In summary, our Southern California poor, shallow soils do not support deep tree tap root systems.  Most trees grow fibrous spreading root systems.  Structural roots emanating from the root collar extend to the edge of the tree crown, (drip line).  Most structural roots growing beneath sidewalks range from two to four inches in diameter, lifting sidewalk panels on average one-two inches. Trees growing in confined planters or adjacent to concrete, utilities or foundations may develop structural roots capable of lifting, cracking or damaging adjacent improvements.

Attorneys should select an expert based on the case criteria, not simply a title, license or certificate. Choose an expert most appropriate to address the cause of the problem and develop opinions based on sound, industry practices.

 

 

 

 

 

Trip, Slip and Fall Hazard: Hidden Depressions in Grade

Successful landscapes require:

  • Proper grading, drainage and amended soil.
  • An automatic irrigation system achieving 100% head to head coverage.
  • Properly installed, high quality plant material.

Each of these functions may require a specific type component, installed at a specific height or location to reduce the potential of creating a site hazard that may result in an accident.  In commercial applications, landscape plans usually include details and specifications dictating type of product and how it should be installed.

Many common landscape products may be improperly installed including:

  • Pop up heads may be incorrectly set to grade against a sidewalk.
  • Valve or drainage boxes set too high or low relative to finish grade.
  • Shrub head installed on a riser adjacent to concrete improvement.
  • Hidden, obscured depressions in grade due to substandard compaction, settlement and subsidence.

    Drainage box set too low.

Improper product selection or substandard installation practices may appear obvious.  A pop up sprinkler head set above the top of  adjacent concrete sidewalk creates a trip hazard.  A drainage structure set well below the turf grade creates a trip slip and fall hazard.  Selecting and installing a spray head on a rigid riser next to a pedestrian sidewalk is a sub-standard industry practice that creates a trip and fall hazard.

Spray head on a riser next to a sidewalk creates a trip hazard.

Not all landscape hazards are visible.  Turf areas may have grade depressions or holes that are hidden by overgrown turf grass.  Depending on the cause and time period, turf grass may completely hide the depth, location and size of the depression or hole, creating a hidden hazard.

A depression, rut or hole may result from several factors.  Repeated mowing on saturated turf may  create ruts.  Overwatering may cause irrigation or utility trench settlement.  A dead tree removed from a turf area may result in a future depression if the grade is not properly backfilled and compacted.

A seven inch deep hole hidden by turf grass.

Bermuda grass is a fast horizontal spreading turf-grass used in parks and recreation facilities throughout the country.  Unless regularly aerated and de-thatched, Bermuda grass in known to grow a  thick layer of thatch.  Over time, the thatch layer can increase the turf grade several inches above adjacent sidewalk and curbs.

The backfill in utility trenches installed across pre-existing turf may settle, creating a depression in the sub-grade.  The photo depicts the edge of a trench cut across an asphalt driveway, across a turf area.  The trench backfill eventually settled, creating a trench sub-grade depression hidden by the Bermuda grass.

Thatch, hidden depression and sanded turf.

The depression resulted in a trip and fall accident.  After the accident, several hidden turf depressions were “sanded” to fill  depressions to proper grade.

Not all landscape hazards are open and obvious.  Even a perfectly installed landscape may develop hazardous conditions if not regularly inspected and maintained.

Irrigation systems should be monitored, inspected, tested and adjusted monthly.  Turf should be trimmed around utility boxes and vaults regularly, aerated and de-thatched annually to maintain optimum performance and minimize grade changes.  Drainage structures should be grade adjusted, repaired or replaced when damaged.  Valve, electrical and junction boxes should be monitored for grade changes and adjusted as required.  Bark mulch thickness should be monitored and supplemented annually to maintain proper coverage and grade.

In summary, a properly installed landscape is composed of several systems and components that require regular ongoing maintenance for optimum performance, efficiency and safety.  Pro-active landscape maintenance may reduce potential hazards, resultant accidents and lawsuits.  These actions demonstrates an Owner’s recognition of protecting the health and safety of the public, pedestrians, friends and family who may visit and use the site and may prove useful in a legal action.

Online Site Inspections with Corona Virus: A New Paradigm?

The corona virus and resulting stay at home order has prevented me from scheduling or attending site inspections.  I require site inspection for most forms of consulting work, including as a consulting arborist or expert witness.

  • Tree failures, health and risk assessment
  • Tree inventories
  • Tree and nursery appraisals
  • Tree roots and infrastructure damage.
  • Landscape appurtenances creating trip and fall hazard.
  • Obscured landscape hazards, grade changes
  • Irrigation operation, maintenance issues

A client wanted me to attend and observe asphalt paving taking place adjacent to an 80 year old Torrey Pine.  I had previously consulted on preserving this tree during construction on an adjacent property.  The client was repaving his driveway on the alley, the pine is right on the edge of the paving.

Due to California stay at home orders, I informed the client I could not be present to observe the paving to make recommendations, so we used the Facetime app and did an online site observation whereby I watched in real time as the work was being performed.  I was able to give the client recommendations in real time.

Moistened towel protect surface roots

He was concerned about root damage, and rightly so.  Some of large buttress roots would be impacted by the paving.  Instead of cutting, I recommended covering the roots with wet towels, fabric etc, then placing moistened sand base, then pave over the roots.

Moistened sand placed over protected roots

As terrible as it is, the corona virus has created many new ways for industries to re-invent how they do their business.  This was the first time I have attempted on online site inspection and it worked!  This may not be applicable for the types of investigations I perform, but there is a great new tool I can use for certain types of investigations during stay at home and even beyond.

Asphalt paving over protected roots

 

The financial savings for the client are obvious.  Travel costs for me to travel to Los Angeles, Orange or Inland Empire typically range from $500 to $1000 or more if hotel stay is required.

Not all inspections can be performed remotely.  Forensic investigations that require measurements, excavations, sampling, testing etc may not be applicable.

Since this is new to me, it will take some real time client cases for me to determine how and when I can utilize this new tool.

What is an RCA?

When I tell people I’m a consulting arborist they often ask what is that? Everyone is familiar with tree care companies, but not so much what the role of a consulting arborist. The common conception is when there is a tree problem, call up a tree contractor and have them do the work.

Yet, there are many tree problems that require expertise beyond a tree care company. When a tree has a change in condition or conflicts with infrastructure, a consulting arborist is required to assess the situation and make recommendations.

Consulting arborists have one or more certifications.  The primary designation is a certified arborist.  This designation is administered through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).  The second and more difficult designation to obtain is that of Registered Consulting Arborist (RCA), administered through the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). Consulting arborists with the RCA designation are the preeminent authorities on tree related matters.

To receive the RCA designation, an individual must already be a certified arborist.  Once they meet the experience and education requirements, an applicant must enroll in the Consulting Academy.  This rigorous training focuses on technical and report writing. Applicants who receive their RCA designation are trained to produce the highest quality written reports and work product, a terrific benefit for attorneys, insurers and professional consultants.

To learn more about registered consulting arborists, please click on the link below.

What is an RCA

“Arborgeddon” – PTCA Hosts Another Great Seminar and Field Day

Ficus tree roots engulf a curb, seen during Field day at Balboa Park

Ficus tree roots engulf a curb, seen during Field day at Balboa Park

The Professional Tree Care Association (PTCA) of San Diego hosted their annual seminar and field day, a two day event on Friday, August 22 and Saturday August 23, 2014. This was the 25th annual event and like many of the previous seminars, this was another informative, educational experience bringing together a wide diversity of speakers and audience!

The seminar was on Friday and this years theme centered on the ongoing California drought and ramifications to trees. There were a number of great speakers, starting with Mr. Ron Matranga who provided an overview about trees in times of drought, current and future water restrictions . Dr. Roger Kjelgren, Professor from Utah State University, provided a simplified method for landscape irrigation demand estimation. Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, the Urban Horticulture Extension Specialist from Washington State University discussed how to treat and avoid drought stress in landscape trees and Ms. JoEllen Jacoby, the Water Conservation Landscape Architect for the City of San Diego enlightened us about planning for current and future water restrictions (gulp, better get some rain this winter)!

Ms. Mary Matav, Agronomist from Agri-Serve presented information on how to combat pests and drought, followed by Dr. Tracy Ellis, Entomologist with the San Diego County Department of Agriculture, scaring all of us about tree insect interceptions and quarantines in San Diego County.

A great roster of speakers who delivered relevant information in a beautiful setting at Balboa Park in San Diego. On Saturday, the event transferred to the field, where information discussed at the seminar was applied and viewed in the field, an aspect of the field day I find very beneficial.

As usual, Dr. John Kabashima, the Environmental Horticulture Advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension, presented new, current information on the latest insect threat to our ornamental and agronomic trees in California, that being the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer, (PSHB). As many of us already know, this destructive ambrosia beetle is now active throughout the Southern California.

The PSHB is an invasive ambrosia beetle that carries the fungus Fusarium euwallaceae.  The female tunnels through the bark and lays galleries of pre-fertilized eggs and grows the fungus, which becomes food the newly hatched beetles.  The fungi infects the tree with a disease called Fusarium Dieback (FD), which interrupts the transport of water and nutrients through the vascular system of the tree.  In essence, this is a vascular clogging disease resulting in dieback and death of a large host of trees.   Unfortunately, there is no cure at the present time and beware of PSHB/FD look-alikes.  Here is very informative attachment Dr. Kabashima provided that really provides current information about this insect.  Handout is published from the University of California and the UC division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.   PSHB Information

Many thanks to all of the hardworking voluntary staff of the PTCA.  What a great local association, I am very proud to be a member of.  The PTCA is an active association promoting the best in tree care and tree knowledge.  An association composted of tree care companies, certified and consulting arborists and tree care  professionals, the PTCA continues to provide current and relevant topics for it’s membership and community at large.  Thanks again PTCA, looking forward to next years Seminar and Field Day!

PTCA Arbor Essence

No, this is not a perfume, rather it is the title for this years PTCA Seminar and Field Day.  PTCA, known as the Professional Tree Care Association of San Diego, is a premier industry association for professionals within the tree care industry.  The association contains a wide diversity of professionals, including representatives from outstanding tree care and tree service companies, ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborists, utility arborists, board certified master arborist, ASCA (American Association of Consulting Arborists) RSA’s (Registered Consulting Arborist), and industry professionals from utility companies, San Diego Zoo, golf courses, private industries, landscape contractors, landscape architects, educators and more.

A common thread shared by all of these different professionals and educators is our love of TREES and desire to further improve our understanding of the field of arboriculture!  It is a comforting feeling sitting is a room with hundreds of people sharing our knowledge and experiences with trees, learning new information, meeting old and making new friends.

Each year, the PTCA sponsors the annual Seminar and Field Day.  The first day (today) featured an incredible diversity of speakers and topics, there is something for everyone.  Here is a sampling of todays speakers:

Ms. Leah Rottke, professor at Cuyamaca College spoke about what to plant now for upcoming changes brought about by climate change in Southern California, Ms. Pat Nolan, County Pathologist for San Diego County of Department of Agriculture spoke about invasive diseases  moving into the Urban Forest.  In the morning session, Dr. Tom Scott, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, UC Riverside discussed Management of Oak trees in San Diego County followed by an afternoon discussion about the Gold Spotted Oak Borer research (GSOB) and update.  Mr. Ron Matranga, Board Certified Master Arborist from Atlas Tree Service provided an overview of the ISA Traq (Tree Risk Assessment Qualified) program and Mr.Randall Stamen, Esq., from Riverside, California delivered a sobering lecture about Arboriculture and the law, including tree risk assessment and case studies.  Mr. Brian Bishop of Bishops Tree Service discussed improving the efficiency of tree crews and Dr. John Kabashima, Ph.D., UC County Extension, Orange County gave an entertaining lecture about effective sampling for diagnoses of insect and disease problems.  All of that in ONE day!

Really looking forward to tomorrow, the field day featuring workshops in tree risk assessment and BMP (best management practices), insects and diseases of shade tree diagnoses, pesticide applications for tree demonstrations, safety and tree identification, electrical safety, wood weight calculations, improving efficiency and maximizing safety.  There will be a tree climbing workshop provided in Spanish and English.

If you are a tree, landscape, horticulture, educator, consultant, or expert witness and have not yet attended a PTCA field day, you are missing out on a premier educational and entertaining event.  Members of the ISA, ASCA and urban forest councils, city and jurisdictional representatives, recreational and utility companies all come together in a common bond of learning, teaching and sharing, not to mention fantastic networking opportunities.  Hope to see you at the next PTCA Seminar and Field Day!

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

Winter Sweetness!

Talk about a winter treat, try growing your own semi dwarf citrus tree(s). Last year, I planted a 15 gallon “Satsuma” seedless mandarin orange and one year later, we are feasting on an amazing harvest of sweet, juicy seedless mandarins. Try using mandarins in salads and dressings, not to mention fresh off the tree anytime!

I found the plant fairly easy to grow, full sun with normal fertilization and decent drainage. I kept the soil pH on the acidic side, the plant did great. I strongly recommend this particular variety because it stays relatively small, easy to maintain, and heavy fruit production.

Late fall / winter maturing citrus is such a special treat to have in Southern California. Just imagine all those mid western and eastern folk never having the opportunity to grow and have fresh citrus like we do!

With many varieties to choose from, you can select a tree that suits the size of your property. A nicely maintained citrus tree can be a very attractive small to mid size tree with the added fruit as a tremendous benefit.

Enjoy!

The Edible Landscape

In Southern California, we are blessed with a mild, Mediterranean climate that provides a 365-day year growing season. Although limited by some winter frosts, we are able to grow most landscape ornamentals as well as vegetables throughout the year.

We also face serious water supply challenges now and into the future. Water allotments from Northern California and the Colorado river are being reduced, municipalities have issued water alerts and restrictions on water use while implementing tiered water rates meant to punish abusive water consumers.

The days of cheap imported water that allowed Southern California to flourish as a green oasis in what normally would be a desert are ancient history.

If you are considering a new or renovating an existing landscape, water conservation and using appropriate plant materials should be a top priority. Studies show 50% of a residential water bill goes toward landscape irrigation. The single greatest water consumer is turf grass utilizing overhead spray irrigation.

Do you really need that turf grass lawn? Are you an empty nestor, no longer needing the big play area for the kids? Are you a new homeowner, trying to figure out the best design and functionality for your landscape? With todays water and maintenance costs, you must make an informed decision when tailoring an appropriate landscape for your property and your own personal, functional and aesthetic interests.

So, if you have already decided the typical water guzzling turf landscape is not for you, that leaves several types of water efficient landscapes to choose from. This blog will focus on using an organic fruit and vegetable garden as an edible, beautiful and functional landscape planting.

ARE YOU THE GARDENING TYPE?

If you:

  • Love to get your hands dirty
  • Have the time and commitment to garden regularly and as needed
  • Have a area that receives a minimum of six hours full sunlight daily
  • Enjoy eating fruits and vegetables
  • Have a desire to eat chemical free produce
  • Enjoy saving water cost, reducing your carbon footprint
  • Like to educate kids, neighbors and your community
  • Like to do the right thing

If the answer to the first four items above are yes, Congratulations, you are a likely candidate to start a fruit and vegetable garden!

The traditional concept of row gardening can be easily modified and adapted to a landscape design, satisfying both functional and aesthetic considerations. Using our residence as a example, we choose to convert our worn out, old front yard cactus garden into a fruit and vegetable garden.

Overgrown, non functional cactus garden

Since this is our front yard, I wanted to create a functional yet aesthetic fruit and vegetable garden that would enhance and enliven the site characteristics. Since the site is raised and already had a segmental block retaining wall, I designed a series of raised planters with pathways on each side of the planter for ease of cruising through the garden and access to work both sides of the planter beds.

Renovated landscape with vegetable garden raised planter beds

Raised planters with pathways for access also create interest

In a few months, we celebrate our one year garden anniversary. Take a look at some of the fruits and vegetables grown this past year.

French breakfast radishes, yum

Fresh, sweet organic carrots

Sweet millions tomatoes, the sweetest yet

Pomegranate trees make great medium size ornamental tree with beautiful fruit

Gotta have a lime tree for a mojito

A beautiful, edible front yard landscape

Ready to get started? Need help? I am a professional horticulturist, a C-27 landscape contractor and a certified arborist. My company, Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC provides professional landscape, arboriculture, horticulture and organic gardening consulting services. Got a problem with the garden? Give me a call at 858-205-4748.

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.