herald

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Judge axes airline pilot's €60,000 lawsuit over school's 'danger' trees

Daniel De Jong’s house in Swords
Daniel De Jong’s house in Swords

An Aer Lingus pilot was barking up the wrong trees when he tried to sue a school for €60,000.

Daniel De Jong said bird droppings and branches were falling into his garden from two pines on the grounds of Fingal Community College next door.

He argued that the pines were a hazard to his property and family due to a risk of branches or a whole tree falling on to his property in stormy conditions.

Nuisance

However, Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke threw out his claim, saying he had brought himself to the nuisance when he extended his house towards the trees.

The Circuit Civil Court heard the two listed and protected Corsican pines were more than a century old.

Following earlier complaints from Mr De Jong to the school on Seatown Road, Swords, management had taken expert advice and removed five trees that could have constituted a danger and trimmed others.

Mr De Jong, who lives at Seatown Villas, said the school grounds adjoined his property, and claimed that the two trees were in poor condition and suffered from soil erosion and root and bark damage.

He told the court they were a nuisance because of falling branches, leaves and deb-ris, bird infestation and bird fouling.

While the school had removed five trees in 2017, it had refused, despite repeated requests, to remove the two remaining.

A consultant arborist who was called to give evidence on behalf of Mr De Jong agreed in cross-examination by barrister Rob Lowe that the remaining trees had survived hurricane-like winds in recent years and could live "for another 150 years".

Mr Lowe, who appeared for the college, said some of the trees that were considered a danger had been felled, but no one, despite an assessment by experts, had recommended that the remaining two be cut down.

Nesting

He told the court the college continued to have the trees inspected every year and would continue to have them assessed in the future.

The top canopy, by the very nature of the Corsican pinus nigra trees, was an attraction to nesting birds.

Judge Groarke, in dismissing Mr De Jong's claim, said there was no nuisance.

If there was, he had brought it on himself when he bought the house which he had since extended underneath the trees.

Mr De Jong was ordered to pay the legal costs of the case.

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