The family of a woman hit by a fallen tree branch in a San Francisco park earlier this year has filed a lawsuit against The City, claiming negligent pruning and maintenance of the tree led to the branch falling.
Emma Zhou, 36, was in North Beach’s Washington Square Park on Aug. 12 with her daughters when a 100-pound branch of a pine tree broke off and fell on Zhou, leaving her with a severed spinal cord, a fractured skull, brain damage and permanent paralysis below the waist, according to the complaint filed Monday in San Francisco Superior Court.
The complaint alleges that The City had received reports of fallen pine branches in the park prior to the August incident, but failed to properly care for the trees.
“At least one of these pines was reported to have dropped multiple branches on the playground in 2008 and then in 2009 the playground was taped because of hanging branches,” Jeremy Cloyd, an attorney with The Veen Firm that is representing the Zhou family, said in a statement.
“The City knows that trees pruned like this must be watched closely and pruned frequently because they will continue to develop branches that are too heavy and large for the tree to support,” he said.
The lawsuit seeks damages for Zhou including incurred medical expenses, loss of earning capacity and noneconomic damages, as well as damages in amounts to be determined for her husband and Zhou’s daughters, who continue to suffer “emotional distress” from witnessing the branch fall on their mother.
Meanwhile, Zhou remains hospitalized and is learning to use a wheelchair, her attorney said Monday.
“She is having a hard time emotionally, but tries to put on a good face, remain positive, and work on her recovery,” Cloyd said.
John Cote, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, said Monday the office had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
“We haven’t been served with the lawsuit, so we can’t comment on specifics about something we haven’t seen,” Cote said in a statement. “Generally speaking, we evaluate every case we receive and decide on the best way to proceed. What happened to Ms. Zhou is heartbreaking, and our thoughts go out to her and her family.”