Damage caused by cable company trenching

This past Tuesday TWC cable switched out a bad DVR box at my home, and ran a new temporary above ground cable, approx 200 feet from the street to my house. The technician told me via phone ( I was not there at the time) that he set up a to have a new cable buried next Wednesday the 26th. I instructed him that I wouldn't allow any digging, and I didn't want the cable installed, as I have several old growth trees along the digging path within 5- 15 feet.....incidentally, I was never given a reason as to why I needed a new cable- my service has been great!
So, I'm out of town for vacation later that afternoon, through today(Sunday the 23rd) and return home to find the trench cut, cable buried and filled. Several trees had root systems compromised- 80 - 100 foot trees that I'm interested in keeping around for a while. Heck, I'd have spent plenty of money out of pocket to hand dig, and or reroute the cable to avoid screwing up something that takes 80 years to grow. Not to mention the trees die and I'm out $1000 minimum for cutting and removal per tree. The cable was installed outside of the easement.
What's my next step- (I will be calling an arborist to consult on the damage as a starter)
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wrote:

I would be shocked if it was more than a few inches deep. I'm sure your trees are OK.
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porter wrote:

I seriously doubt that the trees were harmed. I had 600' of underground telephone cable run to my house and it ran within 10'-12' of a many large trees and not a one of them showed any damage. Trees will suffer damage if a large area is disturbed, but a 2" trencher should not cause permanent damage. That said however, I would still raise hell with the cable company and demand a record be made and kept on file for any "undisclosed damages". Bob
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Porter,
I have watched our local TWC bury cable on homeowners' lawns. They slit-trench, which is much less invasive than having your lawn core aerated. There is no need for dirt to be "filled" - none is removed in the first place. It is a very slick, quick, nearly benign operation. I would assume that your underground cable was handled in the same manner.
BUT - TWC never should never have done the work without your permission. I would certainly bitch over that. TWC seems to love installing a new drop whenever a customer has a problem with digital cable and/or high speed Internet service. I went through the same situation 3 months ago and for the same reasons. That new cable is still draped across my lawn due to my persistence.
I informed the installer to not schedule burial since I will be trenching the lawn this summer and I'd prefer to not cut through a buried TWC drop. To be extra safe, I phoned TWC and informed them that our back yard is fenced because several times per day we just open the back door and release our two Dobes. TWC now knocks on my front door before entering my property. I'm in their computer as "the owner of attack dogs." A small but effective fib.
Always assume that the person you are dealing with is a moron and take defensive measures. You won't regret it.
I feel fairly certain that your cable was slit-trenched, but you still have the right to bitch at TWC. One month's free service should be a reasonable compromise from your vantage point since you really suffered no damage but TWC did ignore your requests.
If they actually trenched and they did damage to well-established trees, then you could have a serious legal issue. But you should still realize that 80-100 foot, well-established, healthy trees are generally very robust and often handle such trauma rather well.
The down side is the fact that non-trivial trauma to well-established trees often won't manifest itself for many years. It is often difficult to go to court in front of an ignorant judge and plead you case that your trees may possibly show signs of distress 6 years from now. The judge isn't an arborist and his "common sense" will often over- ride any expert testimony from an trained professional. Sad but true.
Good luck, Gideon
============== porter wrote in message
This past Tuesday TWC cable switched out a bad DVR box at my home, and ran a new temporary above ground cable, approx 200 feet from the street to my house. The technician told me via phone ( I was not there at the time) that he set up a to have a new cable buried next Wednesday the 26th. I instructed him that I wouldn't allow any digging, and I didn't want the cable installed, as I have several old growth trees along the digging path within 5- 15 feet.....incidentally, I was never given a reason as to why I needed a new cable- my service has been great!
So, I'm out of town for vacation later that afternoon, through today(Sunday the 23rd) and return home to find the trench cut, cable buried and filled. Several trees had root systems compromised- 80 - 100 foot trees that I'm interested in keeping around for a while. Heck, I'd have spent plenty of money out of pocket to hand dig, and or reroute the cable to avoid screwing up something that takes 80 years to grow. Not to mention the trees die and I'm out $1000 minimum for cutting and removal per tree. The cable was installed outside of the easement.
What's my next step- (I will be calling an arborist to consult on the damage as a starter)
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The cable is probably not deep enough to harm the enough of the surface root system, but if you are in a drought watering will help. I would bet weed killer and other things hurt your trees more. If they cut 6ft down then you would have real reason to be concerned of future die off, but at 15 ft it may be ok. Talk to an arborist, either way watering during drought and heat helps old trees since maybe 40-60% of a trees roots are near the surface. If I was you I would be mad at the cable company.
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More detail on the trenching work that was done- the trench was at least 8 inches deep, and some places deeper. I hand excavated a few areas and there were many roots cut. In my online research, I"ve learned that 90 % of the roots are located in the first 12-18 inches, and any trenching done in the root zone can cause serious damage. I hit on some utility guidelines that specifically stated not to perform trenching in the manner and scope that was performed in my yard. Young trees are more likely to recover, these trees are mature.
My dilemna is when these trees die a slow death over the next 3 years, then I have to pay for removal. Not to mention a few of them are in a drop zone that can take out my children's bedrooms! I'm proactive in removing sick trees- I've spent large to take out 5 trees over the past few years that were risky.
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porter wrote:

So file a lawsuit for the damage specifying a settlement where the cable company takes responsibility for having the trees examined annually be a qualified arborist and is responsible for their removal *and* replacement with comparable trees if they die as a result of the unauthorized trenching over say a 10yr period. If they are still ok after 10 yrs you can probably drop it since they're likely fine. If the cable company is lucky all they will end up paying is the arborist visits for like $100 / yr which is less than pocket change for them. If they're not lucky then tens of thousands for removal and replacement.
Pete C.
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Pete C. wrote:

He has no real basis for a lawsuit now, because he has no quantifiable damages, which is key. And without that, you don't even know where to file. Small claims because it's less than $3K?, or superiour court, where it's gonna get expensive real fast to try to recover moeny for something that "might" someday happen.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Doesn't matter. File in small claims and settle out of court. In the best and perhaps most likely case it will only cost the cable company a couple thousand dollars over a decade. Their counsel will tell them to just settle and be done with it.
Pete C.
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Pete C. wrote:

Yes, it does matter. If he sues in small claims court, the limit is typically $3K - $5K. If he sues now in small claims, the utility may very well just choose not to even show show up and let him win his $3K. But the actual damages if he has to pay to have trees removed and is out the value of existing large mature trees, could turn out to be 10 times that.
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On an issue of value, one tree can increase or decrease your lots astetic value by 1-10000. Trees are insurable, An old growth non nailed walnut can be worth 10000 with the record being near 100000$. One tree for me is 2000 to cut down with some near 3000. Small claims here only goes to 5000$. And first you must prove they caused the death, my trees are 80-120yr red oaks, all diseased and worn out.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote: He has no real basis for a lawsuit now, because he has no quantifiable damages, which is key.
========== I'm not a lawyer, but I see similarities to other lawsuits.
Suppose that I injure an eight year-old child with my car. Experts testify about his probable degree of disability over his lifetime, his expected lifetime, his probable lost income, the cost of lifetime care, etc. The injury occurred now, but some of those liabilities won't occur for many years to come. Even if the injury doesn't cause a disability now, but probably will in the future, I should be liable for all future complications.
It seems to me (just an opinion) that a court judgement or an out-of-court settlement is first predicated upon determining if TWC harmed the tree. The harm has been done now or it hasn't.
Future complications from that harm are probabilities and estimation. Possible manners in which that is handled in a settlement are pure speculation on my part. I know that judgements can be based upon probably future loss. I don't know if a judgement can dictate "let's look at it every year for 15 years and see what happens." That seems logical to me, but the law certainly isn't always logical.
I plan to trench my yard this summer and I will be cutting through many roots from trees, shrubs, grape vines, etc. I've Googled the subject in the past and there are guidelines for the proper methods of dressing root wounds after they have been mangled by a trencher. Both an arborist and a city engineer can examine a few areas to provide expert opinion on the damage to the root structure. If they see problems (they probably will), the one option is for TWC to hire somebody to come out, retrench, and properly deal with the roots. Even so, the health of the trees may be compromised in the future.
The orginal poster may want to check with his local municipality and talk with their engineering department and their legal folks.
Some cities are very astute in this area. They cut roots on trees which belong to the city and trees which belong to homeowners. They try to avoid tree damage and follow the proper guidelines.
Cities courts also resolve such disputes between homeowners or between homeowners and contractors. The advice is free. (Well, actual when you consider your tax bill, the advice is really rather expensive).
Gideon
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porter wrote:

The only thing you can do at this point is to document everything. Take lots of pictures of the condition of the trees and where the trenching was done relative to the trees. Getting an arborist's written report is an excellent idea too. If he says it may take X yrs for the damage to the tree to become visible, make sure that goes in the report. Notify the cable company in writing. Also take pictures again at the same time of year for the next 3 years to document any changes.
If the arborist gives advice that says something should be done now, then have it done and notify the cable company that they should pay it. Then it's a process of wait and see. Until you have proof of actual damage to the tree, I don't think anything more can be done at this point. I'd also check out the statute of limitations issue on a case like this. It should be a least 3 years or so, which should give you enough time.
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8" is deep, but it depends on the species, only an arborist and more resesarch will tell you how serious it might possibly be, it may not be very bad. They will re grow, watering will help to not stress the tree to much. This is the time they need water, you realy need to research this and not panic, only a small area was cut. Id say you have a case.
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Thanks for the feedback, I think the documentation and periodic review by an arborist will be my best option- Im waiting for a return call this morning from tech manager concerning the disregard for my 'no work' instructions. The hassle of having to deal with this is probably the greatest negative.!
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A big problem for you is proving that you instructed TWC not to trench. Hopefully you can still get some satifaction.
Better yet, hopefully an arborist will say that no significent harm was done.
Gideon
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Gideon wrote:

While it would be icing on the cake to be able to prove that he instructed them not to trench, I don't see that as a big problem. The cable company is responsible for damage done to his property whether he gave permission or not.
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