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Update: agriculture

Falling branches, dung deadlines and the civil liberties of soft furry things - Simon Blackburn reports on an eventful summer in agricultural law

16 August 2010

Last week’s news that a mother is to sue the National Trust for £300,000 following the death of her son from a falling tree branch has once again brought the management of potentially dangerous trees to the fore. Daniel Mullinger was killed when a 160-year-old beech tree at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk shed a branch which landed on him and three of his schoolmates.

The 2009 county court case of Selwyn-Smith v Gompels (unreported) sets out a ‘sliding duty of care’ imposed upon landowners whose trees cause damage to people or property. In this case, a 28-metre-tall Austrian pine tree belonging to Mr Gompels fell onto Mr Smith’s shed causing him severe injuries, as well as extensive damage to the building and contents. Smith’s claim came under two limbs: the first was a failure on the part of Gompels to have the tree inspected, and the second was that, having already lost two similar specimens, Gompels ought to have been aware that it could only have been a matt...

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