Vermont Court Upholds $1.8 Million in Clash Over Tree

March 11, 2008

The Vermont Supreme Court has affirmed a $1.8 million award to a Woodstock family to cover damages caused by a neighbor who cut down their trees and harassed them.

In the ruling, Associate Justice Marilyn Skoglund wrote that the jury found that plaintiffs, Kaveh and Leslie Shahi and their children, had been the victims of a vicious campaign of harassment at the hands of their neighbor.

“The evidence was uncontested that, after plaintiffs refused defendant’s demand to remove an approximately 100-year-old tree located on their shared property line, defendant waged an offensive of intimidation and vandalism that took a large personal and financial toll on plaintiffs,” she wrote.

The dispute started when Madden demanded to cut down a large tree on the property line that the neighbors, court records said.

In 2003, while Shahi was away, Madden cut down the tree even though Shahi had not given him permission to, court records said. Shahi sued Madden and won a $5,000 settlement, the court said.

A short time later, Shahi found that a mature tree on his property had been “girdled” — its bark cut back so that it would die. In September 2005 another tree had been cut and was lying across his driveway and a number of trees had been girdled.

Madden was arrested for vandalism in October 2005.

The court said the Shahi’s bird feeder and vehicle also were vandalized and their dog appeared to have been poisoned.

A neighbor told Shahi that Madden did not like the family because they were not Christians, court records.

On July 13, 2006, a jury in Windsor Superior Court found Madden guilty and awarded Shahi $1.8 million in damages, including $300,000 for the trees.

Madden appealed arguing that he did not cut down many of the trees but only girdled them.

The Supreme Court rejected that argument, saying “to ask injured parties to forego compensation until such time as every one of their doomed trees has dropped its final leaf would be absurd.”

Source: Rutland Herald.

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