Michael frantically waved his arms around and yelled for the men to stop what they were doing, but he was having trouble drawing their attention.
He never agreed for them to do this. After enough shouting, the man cutting the tree stopping and looked at Michael. The man dialed a number on his phone and gave it to him as he took it hesitantly.
Michael and Emma were married and lived right by Nashville, Tennessee. They had only just moved and wanted some minor changes to add a bit of personality to their home.
There were many homes in the area and their yard seemed just the same. There were trees lining the property line. They wanted something that made it more unique.
A part of the property they really loved was the oak trees that lined their yard. It was an important factor when they decided to buy the house.
But among the oak trees were countless mulberry trees that blocked out the sun. They decided to get quotes around town to see who could cut them down.
A Strange Request
The trouble started when they started getting the quotes for cutting the mulberry tree that was always blocking all of their sun. They didn’t know how bad things would get.
They were offered a lot of money, but they were content with the oak trees in their backyard that gave them privacy from the road. Michael didn’t think much of the request. He should have.
You see, Michael’s neighbor had spent a lot of money building a front porch just before Michael and his wife had moved in. It included a fire pit, hanging lights, a jacuzzi, and a pizza oven. Just before Michael and his wife moved in, their neighbor had renovated his porch, adding a pizza oven, a jacuzzi, the works. So he had something to ask of them.
Michael would be lying if he wasn’t a little jealous. But there was a problem to this new addition.
Michael’s neighbor would regularly spend his afternoon after work lying in his jacuzzi, but there was a problem.
The oak trees that Michael and his wife loved so much had the opposite effect on their neighbor. The oak trees would block out the sun and leave his jacuzzi in the shade.
It so happened that their neighbor owned a tree felling business and asked if he could have a look at the job. He was there for more than just the quote.
Michael was just hoping that he would charge less than all the other companies were. But he had no idea what his neighbor’s true intentions were.
While Michael was out of town, he said that he would drop a quote off in his mail. But it seemed that he never would.
Michael knew nothing about cutting trees so he thanked his neighbor for his time. All of this was new to him, so he appreciated the help.
But just one week later Michael was seeing red. He would be shouting at the stranger he found in his yard. What was going on?
They had gotten back home from their trip to find a terrible sight. Michael’s wife had to rush back to work so it was only him who noticed what was going on while they were away.
Michael was confused, he had just gotten back and heard the sound of machinery. He went to the source, his backyard.
There were diggers and trucks in his yard. He saw that it was his neighbor’s company logo on the side of them. Then he realized what was going on.
Race Against Time
They had already started to cut down trees at the end of his backyard. And not just the one they wanted gone. No, they had already cut down a number of their beloved trees.
Michael’s heart raced as he busted through the doors and ran down to them shouting at them to stop. He waved frantically as his voice was drowned out by the loud machinery.
One worker saw Michael sprinting toward him and immediately shut off his engine. When he understood what he said, he immediately hopped out and waved at his crew to stop what they were doing.
Michael looked around at the devastation and angrily asked him who had given them permission. He replied that they had been told to chop down these trees by their boss, his neighbor.
Michael briefly surveyed the damage and felt like crying. His yard was now mashed grass, stomped-on flower beds, and fallen branches. And amid it all, the barren and sawn-off stumps where his beautiful oaks had once stood.
Michael began to fume. He couldn’t believe that his neighbor had done this!
Michael, intensely confused, told him that he never agreed to any work taking place here. Immediately, the worker rang his boss, Michael’s neighbor, and handed him the phone.
After a heated, short conversation, they hung up. The workers left his property and Michael was left with huge fallen trees and debris scattered around his yard. This was just the beginning.
What Could He Do?
Michael stewed about what to do next, but there was nothing he could do. The trees were gone, callously sawn down to a row of dead stumps. He tried to confront his unbelievable neighbor, but he was lying low and his phone went straight to voicemail.
Then, to add insult to injury, he found a note that his neighbor slid underneath the front door.
Insult To Injury
When Michael read the note he was incensed. He took to Reddit to ask for some anonymous advice.
“When I returned from vacation last week, I came home to two tree stumps, mashed up grass, and a letter telling me to expect a Venmo payment for $2000,” Michael angrily explained in a Reddit post. His neighbor really thought that throwing money at the problem would make it go away.
When Michael’s wife came home, she was devastated that her beloved trees were gone. And she hated now being able to see the cars pass on the busy road that hid behind their old trees.
The next day, they wanted to sort this out with their neighbor but there was a problem. The trees that were cut down and left messily on their land had slid onto the busy road after a night of heavy rainfall.
They woke up to the cops knocking on their door. They were informed that the trees were their responsibility, so they would need to pay for the expense of the city moving these massive trees.
They explained the situation, and with Michael’s wife being a lawyer, she was able to calmly and effectively avoid blame and responsibility for this. But that’s when things got interesting!
Answering His Prayers
Michael’s Reddit post had attracted hundreds of comments in just a few days. Many users were just as stumped as he was, but then one of them advised him to repost his question on another thread called “r/treelaw.”
He scrolled through that particular Reddit thread and couldn’t believe what he was reading.
Michael had no idea that there were lawyers who specialized in ‘arboreal arbitration.’ “Tree law is anything that you can imagine that might give rise to disputes between people concerning trees,” says Barri Bonapart, a California tree lawyer.
Shortly after he moved his post to the new thread, everyone was telling him to get an arborist in ASAP. It turned out that Michael could do something about his audacious neighbor after all.
After weeks of back and forth, and growing annoyance at the loss of their beautiful trees, Michael finally had a plan.
They ended up hiring an arborist, or ‘tree doctor,’ to determine the value of the trees they had lost as a way to get their neighbor to admit his wrongdoings and pay up.
Redditors on the r/treelaw Reddit thread waited for an update from Michael with bated breath.
“I assure you, we are all anxiously awaiting how many zeroes are in the estimate that the arborist gives you so you must promise frequent update posts,” one user wrote. “Who doesn’t love a good bit of well-deserved justice?” salivated another. And when he did, everyone lost their minds.
To the couple’s astonishment, their trees were valued at a ridiculously high price as they were rare oak trees that took hundreds of years to grow.
They then hired an attorney and equipped him with all the knowledge they gained from the tree doctor and the overhanging bill left by the council to clean up the road. It was then when he told them of how much they could sue his neighbor’s company for…
Out Of Town!
Their neighbor’s mistake led to a $1.2 million lawsuit to cover all damages created by this incident, including covering attorney fees, road clean-up fees, and the value of the decades-old trees he cut down.
The neighbor declared his business bankrupt and shut it down. He sold his house and moved out of town, too. Michael and his wife didn’t have to pay a penny!
“It’s going to take a long time apparently (several months, possibly all the way until September since the process didn’t start until just this week due to the Holidays),” Michael wrote on his update, “but I will have all 12 trees back on my property at no cost to me!”
“I want to thank everyone for all their advice, it was a huge help!” he continued, “I didn’t know you all were so into trees, but I’m glad you are!”