CLEARWATER — The city is about to approve a $180,000 settlement with a woman whose car was crushed by a tree on city property as she drove past it.
On May 5, 2017, Milagros Medina was driving with her grandson on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Suddenly, a laurel oak tree on a small plot of city-owned land near Tuskawilla Drive fell on the passing car.
Medina seriously injured her neck. Her grandson, who was 8 at the time, suffered minor injuries, the Clearwater Police Department said.
In December 2017, Medina sued the city, claiming the tree falling was “caused by improper inspection and maintenance.”
Adam Talley, an attorney hired by Medina, said he could not comment until the case was completely resolved.
Medina’s suit kicked off a year and a half of legal wrangling. At one point in 2018, Talley, of Haddad & Associates in Clearwater, requested the city’s maintenance records for the tree dating back five years. He pointed to an October 2013 report from the city that said a large, dead portion of the tree was hanging over the street.
“Prune immediately,” said the report, which detailed the condition of some 32,000 city trees.
The city wrote back that it had no recent maintenance records for the tree.
In May of this year, an attempt at mediation between Medina’s lawyer and city attorneys ended without a settlement. But the lawyers kept in contact. Last month, they finally reached an agreement, city attorney Richard Hull said.
It was that offer that was brought before the City Council at Monday’s work session. The settlement is on the consent agenda for Wednesday's regular meeting, which means it is likely to be approved.
Discussion of the suit at Monday’s work session lasted less than a minute. No members of the five-person council offered feedback. At the meeting, Hull, who was the city’s point person on the case, said the $180,000 would come from the city’s $27.1 million central insurance fund.
Hull noted in a subsequent interview that Medina’s case was highly unusual.
“It’s the first time it’s happened here where a tree is fallen over into traffic,” the attorney said.
Times senior researcher John Martin contributed to this report.
Contact Kirby Wilson at email@example.com or (727) 893-8793. Follow @kirbywtweets.