ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - An Orlando man has been awarded $1 million in a case against the City of Orlando, after a tree fell on him while he was in his car. It was back in 2012, when a tree crashed on top of Trino Valdez in his car. Attorney Matt Morgan sued the city on his behalf.
"He sustained a cervical fusion, a lumbar fusion, carpal tunnel surgery, he had nearly $500,000 in medical bills," said Morgan. After four years, Valdez finally got justice, receiving a verdict for $1.165 million.
But Morgan said the accident should never have happened. "The city was aware that this tree was in poor condition in 2007 and never removed the tree until it ultimately fell on Mr. Valdez."
Morgan is concerned there are other rotting Laurel Oaks in the city, calling them ticking time bombs. An Orlando City spokesperson says the 2004 hurricanes damaged many of the city's trees, so they inspected them. We talked to Andrew Kittsley about the inspection. He's the head of Urban Forestry for the City of Orlando.
"We had a complete street tree inventory down in 2007, and we've completed the priority removals," he said. He added that not all of the trees have been removed, "but we're getting to it," he said. The city released this statement, which read, "Currently, only 10 percent of the city's tree canopy is comprised of Laurel Oak trees. In addition, the city no longer plants Laurel Oaks."
Adam Jackson, an arborist at Davey Tree Service, said he still see man Laurel Oaks that need to come down. "I do, in multiple spots. This backside of the tree is a hazard to people walking on this sidewalk," he said, gesturing to a nearby tree during an interview. "All we would need is a good rain storm for that limb to break off."
Meanwhile, even though Valdez won over a million dollars, the city said he will only receive only $200,000, because there's a cap on lawsuits. Morgan said he will petition for a claims bill, so his client gets the money he deserves. "If a company tells you to remove a tree, remove it in a timely manner, to prevent this type of horror from occurring."
Exerts say, if you see a rotting tree, make sure to report it.