He stomped back up the drive while enraged. He had seen a lot in his time as a police officer. But something inside of him broke when he realized what his neighbors had done this time. To keep himself from shivering with wrath, he balled his fists.
He muttered through clinched teeth, "This is war." They believed that they had defeated him. But there was more to come for them.
David Ellis resided in a quiet, little community. As a devoted member of the Los Angeles Police Department, he had served his city for 40 years.
Now, in his supposedly golden years, he had switched his badge for a garden trowel on the weekends and took just as much care in caring for his cherished garden. However, something was about to violently startle the otherwise polite man to his breaking point.
He Had Enough
The old cypress trees that surrounded the modest fence that encircled David's property required weekly trimming and shaping. His mind was at ease thanks to the mechanical action after a demanding week of law enforcement. But it didn't take long for some bold neighbor to spoil this pastime for him as well.
David had been more than understanding during the decades-long conflict between his neighbors and him; they were all related in some way. But this was the tipping point.
A Considerate Man
The gravel road that surrounded David's land served as the focal point of the continuing drama. David has been repairing the potholes that sprang out of nowhere for years by himself.
He continually fretted about an accident because he was a responsible neighbor. He didn't want anyone to suffer harm. However, his neighbors had other plans.
David's daughter, who couldn't recall a time when the neighbors weren't in conflict with her father, declared, "Everyone here is a total nutcase." She pleaded with him to find a solution to the conflict.
But instead of appreciating David's efforts to prevent accidents in his area, the cunning neighbors chose to profit from them.
He Made A Plan
You see, according to his unappreciative neighbors, David was solely responsible for getting the gravel road paved. How, then, was that just? Why should David bear the expense when they all used the road in their private community?
But David came up with a solution rather than reprimanding them all. After all, he was a sensible man.
Doing What He Can
In an effort to placate the irate residents, David handed up a 3 square foot area on the corner of his own property to make it simpler for vehicles to maneuver around the property as they traversed the challenging gravel road.
His neighbors, however, immediately returned the goodwill gesture in his face. But even it wasn't the worst aspect.
It Was The Last Straw
David watched in dread as motorists swerved further closer to his house after giving up the corner of his land. The final straw that broke the camel's back then arrived.
A truckload of wood had been requested by one of the neighbors. However, the truck driver took the corner too wide as he attempted to round the corner and onto David's property. The trucker crashed through David's fence. No one also wanted to pay to repair the harm. David couldn't believe it!
He Was Done
“We had to replant these plants and place a new metal fence,” David’s daughter wrote. My father told me this was not the first time this happened, but actually the third. I couldn't believe it when I heard this.”
The policeman resolved to defend what was his at all costs after fixing the metal fence for the third time. They had now crossed a line.
David was fuming as he marched back up to the home after inspecting the wreckage. This is war now. He'd had enough of being abused after being so kind to the entire ungrateful neighborhood.
That day, as he examined the downed cypress trees, something inside of him cracked. But he would exact revenge.
No one seemed to mind when the officer stationed a series of barrels around the plot of land he’d allowed them to drive on. It was his property, after all.
But while they looked like innocent plastic barrels on the surface, the neighbors would soon discover there was more to them than met the eye.
One morning, David was awoken by a loud banging at the door. His neighbor was furious that he’d driven into one of the heavy rock-filled barrels and damaged his car. But his intimidation tactics didn’t end there… he threatened the startled cop with a “pickaxe to the back.”
Knowing the law, David calmly informed him that the barrels were on his land. But his plan soon hit a snag...
Despite the huge deterrent, David found that so many drivers were hitting the barrels that they eventually split and became useless.
Going back to the drawing board, he contemplated various ways to deter the inconsiderate drivers for good. Then one night, he set about laying something that would earn him the respect he deserved.
The first neighbor on his way home that night was calmly driving along the road as usual. He knew that David let people cut across his property, so he swung his car around generously -- not caring about the freshly laid flowerbed under the wheels.
The next thing he knew, the driver found himself in a heated conversation with his insurance company. You see, David had turned his petty revenge into pro revenge.
Poles And Cement
“My dad was furious,” David’s daughter recounted on the Reddit thread #ProRevenge.
“He cut some wood to use it as a mold. He bought cement, sand, and metal poles,” she continued. “One peaceful afternoon, my father and I cemented that whole part of the land and placed some lovely flowers on top.”
The disrespectful driver had happened upon the police officer’s new solution to the fence-wrecking neighbors -- a small concrete wall hidden under an attractive flowerbed right on the corner of his land.
It was working! The crafty cop’s neighbors couldn’t destroy any more of his property -- although it took them a while to catch on before the matter was dropped completely.
Learning A Lesson
A total of five neighbors wrecked their vehicles while cutting the corner -- on the perfectly legal wall. Not having a leg to stand on, drivers eventually learned to steer clear of the property and stopped knocking on the police officer’s door to complain.
But one particularly angry neighbor escalated matters further, sending lawyers to snoop around the troubled street.
Some neighbors seriously damaged their vehicles, leading to insurance claims that required the cop to prove what he’d done was perfectly legal. Of course, he’d done his due diligence and could quickly show lawyers that he’d done the right thing. It was, after all, still his land.
When Reddit users read the satisfying revenge story, they clapped back.
A Viral Story
“I’m very amused by the logic some people go by,” one incredulous user wrote.
“For example If I intentionally hit your property and it damages my vehicle, it's still your fault (the owner of the property) for trying to protect your property and not letting me just destroy your property… and you should compensate me for the damage caused by my stupidity.”
“They ran over your trees? OHHH BOY. If they run over any more of your trees look up your local laws about trees,” another user wrote.
“People have been sued for TONS of money over the destruction of trees because they take so long to grow, so they have a lot of value” What this user is referring to is the complex, twisted world of ‘tree law.’ If you haven’t heard about it, buckle up…
If the old proverb “if the tree falls in the woods…” applied to tree law, it would be more concerned about whether the tree fell on a car or over two boundary lines and, most importantly, who would be held legally liable for the damages.
Unlike the old “tree-falls-in-the-woods” riddle, however, there would definitely be a concrete answer.
A Little-Known Legal System
So, the location of the tree’s trunk (where it emerges from the ground) dictates who owns it. If any part of this trunk crosses a boundary line, both people are responsible for it as it is jointly owned.
Whoever owns the tree – whether it’s one party or multiple parties – is responsible for the damages it causes if it falls and they didn’t take the necessary steps to inspect and maintain it. So, could David have employed a tree lawyer for his case?
David had no idea that there were lawyers who specialized in ‘arboreal arbitration.’ “Tree law is anything that you can imagine that might give rise to disputes between people concerning trees,” says Barri Bonapart, a California tree lawyer.
Shortly after he made his Reddit post about his revenge, a lot of people were telling him that he should have contacted an arborist. It turns out that David could have done something about his audacious neighbors after all – and even gotten compensation out of them.
The Full Extent Of The Law
One man, known only as “Michael” on Reddit, utilized tree law to his full advantage when his unbelievable neighbor took it upon himself to remove some trees on Michael’s property without consent.
The audacious neighbor had never liked the way the trees blocked the sunlight over his outdoor entertainment area… and he also happened to own a tree-felling business. It’s not hard to imagine what happened next.
Coming Home To Carnage
Michael wanted to remove one pesky mulberry tree that was crowding his oaks and making a mess with its purple berries, so he made the fatal mistake of asking his neighbor for a quote to take just that one tree out.
Michael didn’t hear back from his neighbor and, figuring it was something he could deal with later, went on vacation with his wife. But when he returned, he was greeted by the carnage in his yard.
The Damage Was Done
They had already started to cut down trees at the end of his backyard while he was away. And not just the mulberry tree that they wanted gone. No, they had already cut down a number of their other beloved trees.
Michael looked around at the devastation and angrily asked the men what they were doing. The leader replied that they had been told to chop down all these trees by their boss, his neighbor. Michael surveyed the barren, sawn-off stumps where his beautiful oaks had once stood and took to Reddit to plot his revenge.
Hiring An Arborist
After weeks of back and forth with his neighbor, reading Reddit posts, and a growing annoyance at the loss of the beautiful trees, Michael finally had a plan.
They ended up hiring an arborist, or ‘tree doctor,’ to determine the value of the trees they had lost as a way to get their neighbor to admit his wrongdoings and pay up.
Redditors on the r/treelaw Reddit thread waited for an update from Michael with bated breath. “I assure you, we are all anxiously awaiting how many zeroes are in the estimate that the arborist gives you so you must promise frequent update posts,” one user wrote.
“Who doesn't love a good bit of well-deserved justice?” salivated another Redditor. And when Michael came back to them, everyone lost their minds.
An Unbelievable Win
To Michael’s astonishment, their trees were valued at a ridiculously high price as they were white oak trees that took hundreds of years to grow.
They then hired an attorney and equipped him with all the knowledge they gained from the tree doctor. It was then that Michael updated his Reddit post and told everyone how much he could sue his neighbor’s company for.
An Expensive Mistake
His neighbor’s mistake led to a $1.2 million lawsuit to cover all damages created by this incident, including covering attorney fees, road clean-up fees, and the value of the decades-old trees he cut down. The neighbor declared his business bankrupt and shut it down. He sold his house and moved out of town too. Michael and his wife didn’t have to pay a penny.
Maybe David should have gone the ‘tree law’ route when his neighbors kept destroying his trees. Nevertheless, both outcomes are still satisfying.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.