Immediate preservation of evidence led to a significant settlement with a municipality

Saephan v. City of Burlingame


Heinrich Law’s client, Chai Saephan, was seriously injured when a massive tree branch in a public park fell and struck him on his head and his shoulder. Mr. Saephan sustained serious injuries including a skull fracture, a concussion, and damage to his shoulder, which required surgery.


Heinrich Law needed to ensure an investigation into the health of the tree, and how it was maintained, was immediately completed to determine whether the public entity had exercised appropriate care in protecting users of its park.

In cases of tree branch failures, evidence of the tree and/or the failed branch is often quickly destroyed, making investigation difficult. Once evidence is destroyed it can become nearly impossible to prove the tree owner or manager responsible for its maintenance should be held responsible for the branch failure.


Expert examination of evidence proved our case

Heinrich Law, with the assistance of another pre-eminent personal injury attorney, retained multiple experts to ensure the subject tree and branch was fully evaluated and analyzed before both were removed or destroyed.

Additionally, we obtained and analyzed maintenance records for the subject tree to determine if the public entity had maintained the tree properly.

Heinrich Law proved the public entity was negligent

Our experts’ findings proved our case: the tree’s branches were pruned and cut in a way that caused them to grow back heavier and to such an extent that they could not be safely supported by the trunk of the tree.

Heinrich Law proved the city knew, or should have known, the subject branch constituted a dangerous condition. It was foreseeable this branch was going to fail, because the city did not properly prune and maintain the tree.

It was clear that the city failed to meet their duty of care to Heinrich Law’s client.


After presenting the evidence and the findings of our expert arborist, the city resolved Mr. Saephan’s claim for $750,000, thereby avoiding protracted litigation.

Mr. Saephan was successfully treated for his injuries, including surgery on his shoulder. Fortunately, he is back to work and has made close to a complete recovery.

If you have been harmed by an employee of a public entity, hurt on public property, or have been seriously injured due to the fault of another, please contact us. The consultation is free to you.