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San Diego jury awards $7.7 million to man hurt by falling tree

A San Diego jury Friday awarded $7,675,000 to a man whose legs were crushed when a 60-foot tree on public property toppled on him.

The Superior Court jury earlier had declared that the city was responsible for the injuries suffered by 58-year-old Michael Burke when he was hit by a palm tree in front of his home in 2010. Burke is now a paraplegic, has had 14 surgeries and may need to have his legs amputated.

Burke said that he wishes the city would take responsibility for the incident and resume inspecting and caring for trees on public property, a service that the city curtailed during its recent financial problems.

 "Until then," Burke said, "anyone who lives in San Diego, works in San Diego, or visits San Diego is at risk to be hurt or killed by a tree that topples without warning."

Jonathan Heller, spokesman for City Atty. Jan Goldsmith, said city lawyers would discuss the jury verdict with the City Council and the city's insurer. "The case is far from over at this point," he said.

Burke and his wife, Edith, were represented by attorneys Browne Greene and Ivan Puchalt with the Santa Monica firm of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, and Daniel Balaban and Andrew Spielberger of the Los Angeles firm Balaban and Spielberger.

--Tony Perry in San Diego


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