The 36-year-old woman who was paralyzed by a falling tree branch while she sat on a city park bench watching her children play has filed a claim against San Francisco alleging negligence. The Chronicle reports that an attorney for Emma Zhou, who suffered a skull fracture, brain injury, and severed spinal cord after being struck by the 100-pound branch on August 12 in Washington Square Park, alleges that the tree in question was improperly maintained — thus leading to the branch's fall.
“The city [...] knowingly failed to warn of, eliminate or protect the public from these known risks,” the claim reads. “While the city has reported that the trees are healthy, and described this particular incident as a ‘freak accident,’ it is unknown whether the city has looked for and eliminated other hazardous branches created by the topping.”
Allegedly, the tree-topping technique used on the Canary Island pine in question allowed the lower branches to grow too quickly for the tree too support. “Normally, the tree grows up and down, but here, we have at the topping cut these large, trunk-like branches growing off the sides, and this one here is where the branch fell off and hit Emma,” Zhou's lawyer Jeremy Cloyd told KRON4.
According to the channel, the claim is the likely precursor to a forthcoming lawsuit.
Zhou may need another 16 months in the hospital, as previously reported, and her family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with medical expenses. “The doctors say she’s not going to walk again, and that’s a nightmare for me,” Zhou's husband, Tony Tan, explained to KRON 4.
The city, meanwhile, is continuing to investigate the incident. The Rec & Parks Department has previously said this was a freak accident and Canary Island pines are not typically subject to failures like this. They last assessed the tree in 2010 and gave it a clean bill of help, and a neighborhood association last had the tree trimmed in 2013.
Previously: Woman Injured By Fallen Branch In City Park Still Waiting For City To Cover Medical Bills
100-Pound Tree Branch Falls And Critically Injures Woman In Washington Square Park
Video: Woman Paralyzed By Fallen Tree Branch In North Beach Speaks Out