Horvitz & Levy filed an amicus brief and a request for judicial notice in the California Supreme Court on behalf of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, providing the Court with information and arguments not raised by the parties, leading to the Supreme Court’s favorable opinion regarding the application of California Civil Code section 3346.
Section 3346 authorizes heightened damages for trespass causing injury to trees. When the statute applies, the plaintiff may recover damages of two or three times the actual harm.
The California Supreme Court held that section 3346 does not authorize heightened damages for injury to trees from negligently spread fires. The Court held that, when viewed in light of the statutory scheme and the legislative history, the statute targets “timber trespass” – the kind of direct, intentional injury to trees on the property of another typified by cutting down a neighbor’s trees. The Court noted that applying the statute to damage from negligently spread fires could create enormous liability and would lead to the peculiar result that damage to trees would be valued more than damage to people.
The Los Angeles Daily Journal gave credit for the opinion to Horvitz & Levy, writing that the “justices apparently agreed” with the arguments in the firm's amicus brief by issuing an opinion relying on the same points.