Tree Fall Accident During A Wedding May Result In $28 Million Settlement

In a 2016 wrongful death case in Whittier, the litigants have reached a tentative settlement agreement of approximately $28 million.

My News LA reports that in 2016, 61-year-old Margarita Mojarro was killed after an 80-foot tree fell on her during her daughter’s wedding reception on December 17, 2016.

The surviving family members alleged in their suit filed in April of 2017 that a dangerous condition of public property caused Mogarro’s wrongful death.  Since that time, the case was transferred from the Los Angeles Superior Court to a Norwalk Superior Court.  

The suit named both the city and West Coast Arborists, LLP, which was contracted by the city to maintain and trim the trees at William Penn Park where the fatal accident occurred.  The City of Whittier has also filed cross litigation against West Coast Arborists for indemnity.

A total of 19 plaintiffs include Margarita Mojarro’s husband, Feliciano Mojarro, their four children, including the bride, Patricia Mojarro.  Attorneys for the plaintiffs allege that both Felliciano and his daughter, Patricia, were injured in the incident and currently suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms. 

Expert witness Mateo Garbelotto, who holds a doctorate in forest pathology and microbiology, examined the arboreal remains of the Blue Gum Eucalyptus tree, which toppled onto the wedding party.  He determined that the tree was over-watered and allowed to grow at an unsafe 20% grade. Garbelotto also determined that the decay within the branch that fell on Mojarro would have been visible 10 years before the fatal accident. 

 “It should have been identified as a tree requiring to be inspected closely and at a level beyond simple visible inspection,” Garbelotto said. 

Damage to the root system of the tree was also found to be extensive. However, according to Garbaletto, the damage could have been detected at least five years before the accident by examining the roots that had surfaced around the tree’s base.

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