The District Court has imposed a $90,000 fine plus reparation of $18,500 following a palm tree falling on a woman which resulted in her hospitalisation for six days.  When the tree was being felled there was no exclusion area around the tree to ensure public safety and no signage warning the public to keep clear.

The business owner claimed that the fine was more than the total value of the company and would put the company out of business with the loss of livelihood of all its employees.

The failure to put an exclusion zone and warning signs up does indicate that the company had not understood its obligations towards the safety of the public despite having safety gear for its employees carrying out the tree felling.  If the tree felling operation results in a member of the public being crushed by a falling tree then a significant fine to discourage such conduct by the company and by others may well be the appropriate outcome, even if it puts the company out of business.

Alan Knowsley
Employment & Health & Safety Lawyer