On Wednesday January 2, 2013, Rosemarie Arnold, an attorney for the family of Tony Laino, filed a notice of claim against the City of New York stemming from Superstorm Sandy. A notice of claim must be filed within 90 days of an accident and is the first step necessary in bringing suit against a municipality. It is believed that this is the first notice of claim against the City stemming from the storm.
Mr. Laino was a 30 year old graduate student from St. John’s University and one of the first people to die during the storm when a large tree crashed through the roof of his family home, killing him. His family filed a notice of claim against the City claiming that the tree was overgrown, improperly pruned and should never have been planted on the sidewalk.
Ms. Arnold, the attorney for the family, alleges that over the years at least nine families on Mr. Laino’s block had called the City’s 311 complaint line reporting that the tree had swayed drastically in the wind, was dangerous and needed to be removed. According to Ms. Arnold, the City’s reaction to these complaints was to prune the tree. However, Ms. Arnold stated that by cutting the branches instead of removing the tree, the nearly 100 foot tall tree was made even more unstable.
The notice of claim alleges that the tree should never have been planted on the sidewalk in front of the Laino family’s home because the concrete curb blocked half of the fast growing tree’s roots. Ms. Arnold stated that this was one of the reasons that the tree came down during the storm.
She further claimed that Mr. Laino’s death cannot be considered “an act of God” because the circumstances were not unforeseen. She contends that the City had long been put on notice that the tree posed a danger to the neighborhood. A spokesperson for the Law Department for the City of New York stated that the claim was being evaluated.
Clearly, the City was on notice of the dangerous condition of the tree that took the life of Mr. Laino and failed to act in a reasonable and prudent manner. The court should not allow the City to hide behind the cloak of immunity when such a tragedy is the foreseeable result of its inaction.