Unauthorized Tree Removal by TPUD, Request for Just Compensation for Loss

By Nancy Skopin, Tillamook
On Tuesday, August 16th, 2022, at approximately 4:15 pm, a representative of the Tillamook PUD knocked on our front door, and informed my husband that their crew was going to cut back the top branches of a Maple tree in our front yard because they were interfering with the power lines. This sounded harmless, so my husband agreed.

At approximately 5:45 pm, I looked out the front window and discovered that the tree had been cut down to the ground. The tree was a beautiful, healthy Maple, about forty feet tall, and several decades old. This was a completely unjustified destruction of our property, so I sent a letter to the PUD invoking our rights under statute ORS 105.810.

This statute, often better known as the ‘timber trespass statute,’ states that:

“Whenever any person, without lawful authority, willfully injures or severs from the land of another any produce thereof or cuts down, girdles or otherwise injures or carries off any tree, timber or shrub on the land of another person, or of the state, county, United States or any public corporation, or on the street or highway in front of any person’s house, or in any village, town or city lot, or cultivated grounds, or on the common or public grounds of any village, town or city, or on the street or highway in front thereof, in an action by such person, village, town, city, the United States, state, county, or public corporation, against the person committing such trespasses if judgment is given for the plaintiff, it shall be given for treble the amount of damages claimed, or assessed for the trespass. In any such action, upon plaintiff’s proof of ownership of the premises and the commission by the defendant of any of the acts mentioned in this section, it is prima facie evidence that the acts were committed by the defendant willfully, intentionally and without plaintiff’s consent.”

(2) ”A court may, in its discretion, award to a prevailing party under subsection (1) of this section reimbursement of reasonable costs of litigation including but not limited to investigation costs and attorney fees.”

The PUD responded to my letter saying that their crew foreman insisted that my husband had agreed to the tree removal, which he had not. The PUD also offered to “replace” the tree. Replacing a tree of this age and size is impossible. I suggested a financial settlement based on the damage to our property and the emotional trauma this destruction has caused. The PUD refused to consider that option.

Now I’m trying to locate an attorney who handles property damage cases on a contingency basis. No luck so far.

My primary concern in this matter is the PUD’s callous disregard for personal property. I know few people will take a stand against such a powerful company, but if they get away with this type of destructive conduct, it will likely continue.