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Browne Greene Wins $7.675 Million in Damages Phase of Michael Burke Vs. City of San Diego Toppled Palm Tree Trial


Today, Browne Greene, Ivan Puchalt ( and Daniel K. Balaban ( won $7.675 million on behalf of clients Michael and Edith Burke in their civil suit for dangerous condition of public property against the City of San Diego. Earlier, on December 17, 2012, the jury held the City of San Diego liable for injuries Michael Burke sustained when a nearly 60-foot City controlled Queen Palm tree in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego toppled over on him, crushing his legs and rendering him a paraplegic. The trial began on December 3, 2012 and was heard before San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Styn. Michael Burke vs. City of San Diego, Case No. 37-2011-00086969-CU-PO-CTL.

“Michael Burke will never walk again because the City of San Diego created the dangerous condition which caused his injuries,” stated Browne Greene, “and no amount of money can ever truly compensate him for the loss that he has suffered. The lesson of this trial is that public safety must prevail over the politics of budget cuts. Until the City of San Diego reinstates the tree inspection and care program it abolished in 2007, it continues to play a game of roulette where it's just a matter of time before someone else who lives, works or visits San Diego will fall victim to a toppling tree not as an act of God, but as an act of San Diego's indifference to the public's safety.”

“Today's verdict is one which brings relief to Michael Burke's family which is a step in the right direction,” stated Daniel K. Balaban. “However, it is a shame that the City of San Diego was not proactive in accepting responsibility for what happened, but forced the Burkes through the ordeal of a trial to see that justice was served. We hope that the City of San Diego will now take serious pause and act accountably to prevent such future accidents.

“I am truly grateful to the jury for its careful consideration of the evidence and for seeing to it that justice was served,” said Michael Burke. “The award today enables me to take care of my medical needs and gives me some peace of mind in knowing that I will be able to care for my wife and son.”

Michael Burke continued: “In the wake of this trial, what would be truly gratifying to me would be to see San Diego's leaders step up to the plate and reinstate a system to inspect, monitor and care for the thousand of trees under the City's control, starting with the aging Queen Palm trees that continue to dominate the Mission Hills landscape where I live. Until then, anyone who lives in San Diego, works in San Diego or visits San Diego is at risk to be hurt or killed by a tree that topples without warning.”

Michael Burke's legs were crushed, rendering him a paraplegic, on January 21, 2010 when a City controlled Queen Palm tree approximately 60-foot tall and weighing thousands of pounds fell over on him in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego. Mr. Burke has had 14 surgeries and there is a high probability that he will have to undergo bilateral, below the knee amputations due to the severity of his injuries.

Editor's Note:

Plaintiffs Michael and Edith Burke were represented by Browne Greene and Ivan Puchalt with the Santa Monica, CA. law firm of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP (; Tel. 310.576.1200; and Daniel K. Balaban and Andrew J. Spielberger with the Los Angeles, CA. law firm of Balaban & Spielberger; Tel. 424.832.7677.

Defendant City of San Diego was represented by Deputy City Attorneys Jane Boardman and Keith Phillips; Tel: 619.236.6220.

Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP
Kathy Pinckert
Interim Public Relations Director
W: 310.576.1200
C: 949.887.0108

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