Michalson v. Nutting

175 N.E. 490 (Mass. 1931)


Plaintiffs alleged roots from a poplar tree on defendants’ land had penetrated plaintiffs’ property and filled up sewer and drain pipes there and also had grown under the cement cellar of plaintiffs’ house, causing the cement to crack and crumble and threatening the house’s foundation.  Plaintiffs sought damages and an injunction compelling removal of the roots and restraining defendants from allowing the roots to encroach on plaintiffs’ land.

Procedural History

The trial judge found that defendants were not liable.


Is a landowner who plants a tree on his property liable for damage caused to a neighboring property by the tree’s roots?

Holding / Rule

No.  Affirmed.  A landowner is free to use any of his land to grow trees and is no liable for damage caused by overhanging branches or invading roots.


The court’s rule parallels the rule that a landowner is not liable for damage caused by the shade of trees planted on his property.  A tree’s growth “naturally and reasonably will be accompanied by the extension of boughs and the penetration of roots over and into adjoining property of others.”  Nevertheless, the neighbor has a right to remove any intruding branches or roots.  A landowner should not be subjected to lawsuits for harm resulting from the reasonable use of his own property.  It is better to leave individuals affected by such harm to protect themselves from it.

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