Rotting Trees, Falling Rocks, and Other Dangers in Nature

In Florida, a day spent out with nature can often prove dangerous. This is mostly thanks to our array of strange critters, like Zika-carrying mosquitos, poisonous snakes, and sneaky alligators. But other, more subtle dangers can lurk in nature, too — and when paired with negligent maintenance or security, something as simple as a tree branch can turn deadly.

Dangers in Nature

A 2015 incident in Alachua County exemplifies this. A 26-year-old woman was visiting Poe Springs Park, about 30 miles outside of Gainesville, with her fiance and three young children when a tree branch fell onto their walking path, striking the woman and causing fatal head trauma.

Her family is now filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the park’s maintenance department. It claims that the tree was clearly rotting and diseased before the fatal accident, and that the department should have been aware of the hazard. Like in many premise liability cases, it is now an issue of whether it was a foreseeable danger.

Realistically, a maintenance department cannot identity every issue with every tree. Additionally, unforeseeable factors, like a heavy rain, can occur. However, if the tree was visibility rotting or dead, as the lawsuit claims, this should have been a clear and foreseeable danger. Recognizing this, the tree should have been trimmed or removed; at the very least, a warning sign should have been placed in the area.

Other Hazards

In a nature park, other dangers might include:

  • Uneven, obscured, or otherwise hazardous walking paths
  • Falling rocks
  • Slippery bridges or other walkways
  • Unmarked dangerous areas, like an area where snakes are nesting
  • Robbery, sexual assault, or physical assault in unmonitored areas

With all of these, there are some exceptions. For example, if someone is trespassing in the park after hours and gets mugged, the park is probably not liable. Similarly, if someone ignores warning signs and enters an area where rattlesnakes are present, they are taking their own risk, and are responsible for their own harm.

Of course, nature is not always predictable. Unforeseeable dangers can quickly occur, and sometimes, it’s impossible to assign any blame. However, if a danger, like the rotting tree branch, is clearly visible, the park does have some responsibility to look out for their visitors, so that they can safely and happily enjoy the beauty Florida has to offer.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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